111 Trees by Rina Singh

Cover image for 111 Trees

111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl by Rina Singh, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer (9781525301209)

Part of the Citizen Kid collection, this nonfiction picture book explore the story of how one village in India came to celebrate the birth of girls. Sundar grew up walking with his mother to get water through the heat. until she is killed from a snake bite. After this, Sundar takes comfort in hugging trees, thinking of his mother. Sundar grew up and taught his children to love nature as much as he does. He works for a mining company and grows so worried about what they are doing to the local environment and their unwillingness to plant trees to help that he leaves his job. He runs for election and becomes the head of the village. When his daughter dies, he plants trees in her memory. He has an idea, declaring that every girl born in the village will be welcomed by the planting of 111 trees. Sundar is mocked for this idea that goes against customs, but he does not give up. He steadily speaks with people, convincing them of the impact they could have on the local environment by planting these trees. As the trees grow, life in the village changes. Now the women don’t have to walk long distances to get water, the fruit of the trees help feed the children and families, and girls can go to school with the boys as the gender inequality is overturned.

Singh builds her story with care, showing Sundar’s childhood with his mother and then his loss of her as the deep inspiration for his idea. She demonstrates how one man’s quest to fix the environment can make an enormous difference not just for him but for an entire community, the future of the girls that grow up there, and the quality of life for all. Singh does not lecture, instead showing how resilience and perseverance can eventually pay off. The Author’s Note at the end of the book offers more information on Sundar and the other customs that he has ended, including child marriage.

The illustrations show the changing landscape as the trees are planted. From a desert-like wasteland, the steady increase in trees transforms the landscape and the pages to lush green. The images focus on the interplay between human and nature, showing a community that even when skeptical continued to listen.

An inspiring picture book that tells the true story of one man’s quest to bring back trees and stop gender inequality. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.

It’s My Tree by Olivier Tallec

It’s My Tree by Olivier Tallec (9781525305474)

A squirrel shares his adoration for his tree in this picture book. But then he gets paranoid, wondering what would happen if someone else thought it was actually THEIR tree! Or if his pinecones were their pinecones! So the squirrel decides to make sure that everyone knows it’s his tree. Perhaps a gate or a wall? A wall so long you can’t walk around it! Then the wall could end in another wall, surrounding the tree and keeping everyone else out. But wait, what’s on the other side of the wall? It could be a better pinecone, a bigger one, or even a better tree!

A master author/illustrator gives us a picture book about the fear of missing out as well as paranoia about others and a fear of them. This book runs with that, showing the wild result when it is taken to its extreme. The use of a jittery squirrel is just right, tending his pinecones, protecting his property, frantic with worry and stress. It’s a book for our times, speaking to all of the elements that create a similar reaction in ourselves and how we protect our own trees and pinecones.

The art is done in bright yellows and oranges, creating a real energy on the page and strengthening the tension the squirrel is experiencing. His facial expression is almost always alarmed, ears stretched high and eyes wide. He almost darts across the page.

Don’t miss out on this one! Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Kids Can Press.

Review: Cherry Blossom and Paper Planes by Jef Aerts

Cherry Blossom and Paper Planes by Jef Aerts

Cherry Blossom and Paper Planes by Jef Aerts & Sanne te Loo (9781782505617)

Adin and Dina lived on the same farm. The two of them spent long days together picking cherries on the farm and climbing high in the cherry trees. They ate the cherries and kept the pits, planting them around town in the hopes that trees would grow. But then one day, Adin’s family decided to move to the city. Adin moved to an apartment building, far from any cherry trees. Dina gave him a bag of cherry pits to take with him. He spent time creating paper airplanes, loading them with pits and launching them off his balcony. Dina did get to visit once during their year apart. The two of them quickly fell back into being close friends. When spring came, the cherry pits were gone but a path of blooming trees led right back to the farm from the city. A path that just had to be followed.

This Dutch import has a lovely quiet to it. From the quiet friendship spent together in trees eating cherries to the quiet of loneliness for a close friend, all are captured on these pages. The emotions of a friend leaving are captured beautifully too as is the lasting connection between people and places. The writing is superb, celebrating cherries and trees and steadily building to that moment in spring when trees burst into bloom.

The art of this picture book celebrates the countryside and nature. The book captures the seasons with different colors and silhouettes of the trees. The rich green of summer turns to the browns of autumn to the whites of winter and then to a vibrant light green of spring that reaches to the city with its illumination on the page.

A lovely look at a cherry of a friendship. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy provided by Floris Books.

Review: Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Wait, Rest, Pause Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Wait, Rest, Pause: Dormancy in Nature by Marcie Flinchum Atkins (9781541561922)

This nonfiction picture book explores hibernation and other forms of dormancy in cold weather. The book looks not only at animals, but at trees as they enter their own dormant winter period. Ladybugs gather together for warmth and pause until spring. Ground squirrels hibernate, shivering for hours to keep warm. Chickadees slow their hearts and pause on cold nights until the next day. Alligators sink into the mud. Earthworms go dormant during a drought until water returns. Then when water or warmth comes back, everyone returns to full life once again.

The breadth of subject matter here is impressive and makes the book far more fascinating than just being about hibernation. The writing is poetic with recurring phrases that call for the dormant species to pause… and the reader will naturally do the same. Each creature is approached in a similar way, making for a book that reads well aloud and also creating a cohesiveness that this broad a subject requires. The book ends with definitions of different types of dormancy and a bibliography for further exploration of the subject. The photographs in the book come from collections such as Getty Images and stock photos. They work well here, offering glimpses of the species dormant as well as active.

An interesting science book that will share well with a group. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Millbrook Press. 

Review: When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree by Jamie L. B. Deenihan, illustrated by Lorraine Rocha (9781454923817)

A little girl had made a list of what she was hoping to get for birthday gifts. On the list were items like a phone, a computer and a drone. But her grandmother got her a lemon tree. In this twist on the adage that when given lemons you should make lemonade, the narrator of the book offers the girl some advice on how to handle her gift. The advice includes what face to make when given the gift and details on how to care for her lemon tree including cautioning her not to hurt it. As the girl follows the advice, she discovers a connection to her lemon tree even before it bears its first crop of lemons for her. As she literally makes and sells lemonade from her lemons, the girl now has to decide how to spend her cash. She returns to the original list, but adds a new number, one that the lemon tree has taught her all about.

The clever twist on the adage is well done, creating a scaffold for the entire story. While the narrative of the book focuses entirely on advice, the illustrations show how the girl chooses to follow it. The narrative is humorous and offers choices for the main character in how she can react to options in her life. Throughout, as is appropriate for a book based on making lemonade, the spin is to be more positive and never sour.

The illustrations are fresh and funny. The family is depicted as African-American and the story is set in an urban area. This gives the lemon tree a great canvas to offer change and the main character a great place to offer lemonade. The illustrations are funny and bright.

A great spin on an old saying, this book is a breath of positivity. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

Review: Trees by Verlie Hutchens

Trees by Verlie Hutchens

Trees by Verlie Hutchens, illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong (9781481447072)

Celebrate trees in this book of verse with each poem focused on one type of tree. There are willows, oaks, birch, aspen and more. A total of fourteen trees are highlighted here in free verse, each one embracing the unique nature of that tree with clarity and brevity. The poems are only a few lines long, yet the capture the tree perfectly. The poems are more about the inherent nature of the tree than really describing them physically. There are trees that pride themselves on their straight arrow-like height, others that are filled with giggles in spring. Each poem suits the tree its about, changing in tone to match.

The art by Tsong is exceptional. Some of the taller trees are done so that the book must be turned to read the words and see the tree upright. Others are shown in a full landscape whether budding in spring or standing against a snowstorm. The illustrations are done using digital collage with hand-done elements. They are filled with lines that swirl and move, creating breezes on the page and rings on the branches and trunks of the trees.

A beautiful book of poetry about the trees in our world. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from copy provided by Beach Lane Books.

3 New Picture Books to Count On

Ducks Away by Mem Fox

Ducks Away! By Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek (9781338185669)

A mother duck crosses a bridge with her ducklings, all five of them! But then one of the little ducks is blown off of the bridge and down into the water below. Mother Duck doesn’t know what to do with four ducklings on the bridge and one down in the water. Then one by one, the other little ducks tumble down to the water. Finally, all five are floating below and they encourage their mother to join them and take the jump herself. This playful counting book merrily counts up to five in a natural way, then counts both up and down as ducklings move from bridge to water. It all feels so much a part of the story thanks to the subtle rhyme structure and the rhythms deftly created by Fox. The illustrations continue the simplicity of the text, and are just right to share with a group or with one child. A picture book you can count on! Appropriate for ages 1-3. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Everybunny Count By Ellie Sandall

Everybunny Count! By Ellie Sandall (9781534400146)

As the foxes and bunnies play together, they decide that today is the day for hide-and-seek. They count up to ten and then as they search, the counting begins again. They steadily count up to ten once more, giving young listeners objects to count on each page. When the bunnies finally find Fox, he has a surprise for them! One that will help them count all the way to ten again. Sandall’s picture book has a freshness and a lightness that is very welcome. The incorporation of so much counting in a single book adds to the fun as do the personalities of each of the animals. A counting delight. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

Shake the Tree by Chiara Vignocchi

Shake the Tree by Chiara Vignocchi, Paolo Chiarinotti and Silvia Borando (9780763694883)

This bright and active picture book is just right for sharing aloud. When Mouse discovers a nut high in a tree, she tries shaking the tree to get it to fall down to her. She shakes it a little to the left and right, but the nut doesn’t budge. A fox though falls down out of the tree and wants to eat the Mouse who scampers up into the tree’s branches. So the Fox shakes the tree, but the Mouse and the nut do not fall down, instead a Warthog comes down and Fox runs up the tree to escape. When Bear falls down next, he really shakes the tree a lot. All of the animals fall down to the ground along with the nut. What will Bear do now?

Shared aloud, the reader will be shaking the tree and the book back and forth. This book could so easily help with concepts of right and left, particularly if you made the story time interactive and the children helped “shake” the tree too. The book also has a clever way to incorporate counting with each animal adding a shake each time they try. It counts up without actually counting, making it a book that has a natural rhythm and appeal. The illustrations add to this with their bright colors and the large animals tumbling from the tree. Funny and a great read-aloud add this one to your next story time on trees or counting. Appropriate for ages 2-4. (Reviewed from library copy.)

3 Playful Picture Books

These three picture books are all about the joy and power of play.

Another Way to Climb a Tree by Liz Garton Scanlon

Another Way to Climb a Tree by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Hadley Hooper (9781626723528)

Lulu loves to climb trees. She saves cats, retrieves kites and climbs trees that others won’t. When Lulu gets sick though, she can’t climb trees for awhile. She misses the trees and the trees and birds miss her too. As Lulu looks out of her window, only the sun is climbing the tree. But then she notices the tree’s shadow on her bedroom wall and Lulu realizes that she can still pretend to be high in the branches. Scanlon’s writing is rich and simple at the same time. She speaks about the joy of climbing trees and then with poignancy shows how much Lulu misses being outside and being up in tree branches. The illustrations by Hooper are done with printmaking and have a traditional and organic feel that adds to the connection with nature felt on the pages. Get this into the hands of children with skinned knees and sunburned noses. Appropriate for ages 4-6. (Reviewed from library copy.)

The Five Forms by Barbara McClintock.jpg

The Five Forms by Barbara McClintock (9781626722163)

When a girl discovers a book of martial arts forms, she ignores the warming in the book that says that “unexpected results” can happen if anyone other than a master attempts them. When the girl tries the crane form, a large crane appears in her room. The crane is quite problematic and destructive, so she quickly moves on to leopard form. As the two animals fight, she adds another and another with a snake and dragon joining the battle. Finally, she reaches the last form to turn things back to normal. She tidies up the mess of the house just before her mother comes in with tickets to the zoo. Perhaps it’s time for someone else to read that book! McClintock’s text is very simple here, with much of the action of the book happening in the images. The book moves from straight picture book to comic frames and back again with alacrity and in a way that flows naturally from form to form. The illustrations are filled with huge animals, messes and activity. This is a fun look at martial arts with a dash of magic. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (Review copy provided by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers.)

Fort-Building Time by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Fort-Building Time by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Abigail Halpin (9780399556562)

Celebrate the seasons through play in this picture book that has different forts built by kids throughout the year. Winter starts the book with an ice and snow fort made merry with pine boughs for seating, berries and branches for decorations. Spring has a quiet fort filled with books to read, a cozy blanket hung between trees. Summer takes the fort to the beach with driftwood, towels, starfish and snacks. The fall fort is up in the changing trees with leaves falling all around. But sometimes forts go awry too! The only solution is a bigger, better fort next time. The text of this picture book is poetic and celebratory of each of the seasons with each season clearly depicted and then the fort shown in the illustrations. The images are filled with diverse children playing together. The fine-lined images are a mix of watercolor, colored pencil and digital that create a rich, warm setting. Have plenty of blankets, boxes and pillows around because little listeners will want to immediately build their own forts. Appropriate for ages 3-5. (E-galley provided by Edelweiss and Alfred A. Knopf.)

The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann

The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann

The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann (9781481491006, Amazon)

Starry Giraffe was very hungry when she came upon an apple tree full of ripe red apples. She selected the most delicious-looking apple and picked it. But just as she was about to eat the apple, a little mouse appeared and told Starry how hungry he was and that he was far too small to reach the apples on his own. So Starry gave him the apple. She turned back to the tree and picked the second most delicious apple to eat. But as the was about to eat it, a family of skunks came up. The giraffe gave them each an apple. And so it continued, with the giraffe picking apples and animals appearing. She gave each of them away until finally there were no more apples on the tree! But just when readers think that there are no apples yet, the story takes a great twist.

This picture book looks at generosity and the power of sharing as the giraffe at the center of the story chooses again and again to share the apples with other animals. The twist at the end moves the book away from more traditional tales and adds a layer of silliness to the story. Abundance is a huge part of this story as the creature with the abundant source of food chooses to share it will all.

Bergmann’s illustrations are simple and bright. The star-covered giraffe is unusual with her starry pattern and the stick-thin legs. The images have a strong graphic punch to them with bright animals on white backgrounds and pale green grass.

A dynamic and modern twist on a story of sharing. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Aladdin.