Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen

Cover image for Survivor Tree.

Survivor Tree by Marcie Colleen, illustrated by Aaron Becker (9780316487672)

On a bustling street in New York City, a small tree grew along the tall steel buildings. It was there for almost thirty years, marking the seasons. Then one September day, there were explosions and buildings fell to rubble, crushing and burning the tree. The tree was found in the wreckage with a few green leaves and taken far away to fresh soil. For several seasons, the tree stayed bare, then one day blossoms and buds arrived. For ten years, the tree grew there until it was time to return home. Home to a newly empty sky, where people stopped and wept, and where the tree with its burns and scars offered a way to bridge past to present.

This picture book is based on the true story of the tree that survived the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. Through seasons of bustling city streets to the attack itself to seasons of healing afterwards, the tree shows an inspiring resilience for us all. Using delicate prose, the author writes of the beauty of the tree even when people were not stopping to notice it. The survival of the tree is told with a gentle admiration for its very survival.

Becker beautifully captures the New York City setting of the tree as it changes from before the attack and afterwards. He offers not just a story of the tree itself but an accompanying story in the illustrations about a family growing up alongside the tree and then there loss and memories after the attack. It is this subtle human connection of people to the tree that add much to the book.

A haunting and beautiful look at 9/11 and the tree that survived it and continues to inspire. Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Little, Brown and Company.

Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly

Cover image for Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey.

Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly (9780062970428)

Marisol is the only one in her family who hates the big magnolia tree in their back yard. She has named the tree Peppina, and doesn’t like it because Marisol is scared of climbing trees. Her best friend Jada isn’t scared of anything. She can climb the tree like a flash and so can Marisol’s older brother. Marisol though worries a lot. She even worries about worrying too much. She is scared of learning to swim and almost didn’t learn to ride a bike either. Marisol is the only person in her class whose mother was born somewhere else. Her mother was born in the Philippines. She’s also the only person whose father works on an oil rig during the week. That’s why she also worries about Evie Smythe, a mean girl in her class who seems nice but makes fun of Marisol and her family. So what will happen when Marisol decides she has to climb Peppina after all? Maybe something amazing!

Award-winning author Kelly based Marisol upon herself as a child. Marisol’s worries and internal voice ring so true because of that connection to the author. As Marisol frets, she finds herself up in the middle of the night often and spends the time watching silent movies so no one else wakes up. She loves Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, naming some of the objects around her home after the actors she sees on screen. These are the clever moments in the book that fully bring it to life.

Readers will enjoy Marisol who may be worried, but also is entirely her own person. While she keeps some of her quirks between herself and Jada, others are more obvious in her life. Marisol is funny and filled with imagination, allowing her to become a bird even if she doesn’t like heights.

A charmer of a chapter book that “may be” just the one you are looking for. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Greenwillow Books.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge

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The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom by Lita Judge (9781250237071)

Through a combination of poetry and science facts, this nonfiction picture book invites readers into the amazing things that trees can do. The book starts with a young beech tree in the Ruhe Forest in Germany, starting to show readers that trees have a language with one another and live much longer than humans do. The roots of the trees act like an instant message web, sending chemical and electrical signals to one another. Trees also have amazing ways to protect themselves from predators, or over-grazing from giraffes. They create our climate, processing carbon dioxide and offering shelter and cool in their ecosystems. They can ask for help from their neighbor trees, who will send them extra nutrients via their root systems. They offer shelter and food to animals. They can tell time via the light, knowing when seasons are changing. The list goes on and on, creating a sense of wonder about the trees that surround us all.

Judge’s poems capture the world from the perspective of the trees themselves. They show what it feels like to be someone’s home, how they continue to live even after they have fallen, how it feels to nurture baby trees, and how it feels to soar high into the sky with your branches. Judge shares facts that truly elevate children’s understanding of trees and how they communicate with one another. The information is fascinating, offering a glimpse into a hidden world. The book ends with an extensive Author’s Note sharing more information, a glossary of terms and a list of sources and websites.

As always, Judge’s illustrations are marvelous. She captures the depths of the forest, the sunbeams kissing the younger trees. She invites us underground to see a den and the roots communicating. She shows us a variety of seasons, from the mellow tones of fall to the cool greens of spring to the ice of winter and the sun of summer. She is a master of light and movement, showing us perspectives that also amaze.

A great nonfiction read that will have young scientists fascinated by their own backyards. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Roaring Brook Press.

The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken

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The Tree in Me by Corinna Luyken (9780593112595)

There is a tree in all of us, as this picture book so gorgeously demonstrates. It’s a tree that is apple-orange-pear-almond-plum delicious. It’s a tree of shade and sun. All parts and stages of the tree are there, from the sapling through to the trunk and the crown. It’s a tree full of creatures, like bees, squirrels and birds. The tree brings wind and rain and dirt with it. Rivers flow and the sky arches overhead. The tree bends thanks to its deep roots. It reaches to the sun. And thanks to knowing there’s a tree in me, I know there’s a tree in you too.

This picture book is written in simple poetic text that swirls on the page, inviting readers to look deeply at their own tree inside of them. The inward connection with nature itself and with our own nature within is beautifully captured here, showing that we are part of nature at a deep level. Children who are learning meditation will enjoy this new visualization of their connection with others too.

The illustrations are a huge part of this book. Done in what would seem wild colors of neon pinks and oranges, the connection to nature turns these colors into sunbeams, light in the trees, and the glow of merry playful cheeks. Paired with the black ink used in the images for leaves, trunks, weeds and grass, the colors invite us into an interior world of brightness.

A nature connection inward and outward. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy provided by Dial Books.

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.