Brian Selznick is a children's book illustrator and author who won the 2008 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration honoring The Invention of Hugo Cabret. In 2017, Selznick teamed up with filmmaker Steven Spielberg and co-producer Chris Meledandri to create a movie told from nature's point of view through the perceptions of plants. Due to the pandemic, the movie plan faltered. But having fallen in love with the idea —which had taken on a grand scope hearkening back to the origins of life and coming all the way up to the present — Selznick carried it forward, with the others' approval, in the form of this remarkable book.

At 525 pages, it is a hefty tome, enough to make any reader age seven and up feel proud. That heftiness is tempered with Selznick's many intriguing black-and-white drawings, which further the storyline and often add an element of mystery; we may see, for instance, a huge eye and not know yet to whom it belongs.

Selznick further balances out the grand scale by starting small, with two sycamore seeds, Louise and Merwin, living at the end of the dinosaur era when forests resembled ours. Inside a seedball still attached to their Mama tree, Louise can see nothing and Merwin only a sliver of a view. They have some information about the world plus a lot of misconceptions, which brings in some charming humor. Hearing about a mountain that Merwin describes, Louise decides "that's what I want to be when I grow up." And for a long time, they are convinced that only plants can talk.

When the wise Mama tree falls and the seeds are released into the sky, Louise, ever full of trust, tells Merwin, "I am glad Mama gave us wings. But I think we should say goodbye to the clouds and the birds." Asked why, she announces, "Because we're falling!"

The story follows their quest to find "good soil, plenty of light, and fresh water" — the conditions needed for a tree to grow tall. They can use their fluff to cling to each other but have to depend on other forces, such as tides or a ride on a butterfly, to move any distance. There's an even deeper element to their quest: In dreams, Louise has heard a voice that convinces her that "something bigger than we can imagine" is coming and that she must help.

Through encounters with everything from seaweed to an exploding volcano, the seed siblings learn about interrelationships in nature and are able to move forward on their journey to find a place to put down roots and become trees. Their vulnerability and protective affection for each other counterbalances their growing vision of the whole realm of nature — of the cosmos, even. This vision reaches epic proportions: A wise being called the Old One observes that "all the atoms that make up our bodies were born in a single moment. We are all as old as time itself." The last chapter is startlingly titled "Sixty-six Million Years Later."

Selznick explains that he knew that "a story told from the point of view of nature would need to have a strong environmental message, encouraging everyone to care for our fragile planet." He brings forth that vision in a way that reverberates for weeks after one closes the covers.