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TREES by Verlie Hutchens


by Verlie Hutchens ; illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong

Pub Date: March 5th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4814-4707-2
Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

A book of poetry that celebrates trees.

Each double-page spread has a nonrhyming poem about a specific type of tree accompanied by art showing the tree in its environment. The first spread is the only one divergent from the pattern, with this pleasant, succinct introduction: “Each tree offers / a story / a clue / a dance / that makes it / its very own / self.” These words show up clearly in white against a gray-green late-autumn background. Different varieties of trees along with several people can be seen from an aerial view as bright leaves swirl about. There is a feeling of exuberance. Throughout the well-laid-out book, the art, a skilled merging of printmaking and digital techniques, deftly complements the text, using facts about each tree to create divergent moods—including a surprisingly foreboding mood at the end. Language is elegant and accessible, with personification as the useful, key poetic device. One significant shortcoming: Every tree-descriptive poem but the final two contains a gender-specific—and often stereotypical—pronoun. Some of the funnier poems require gender for their imagery, such as imagining a scraggly white pine as an “unruly uncle.” However, unnecessarily, the musical maple offers “her” sap after a long, dark winter; “Silly Palm” wears all “her” leaves on top; the mighty oak is, of course, male. Fortunately, the art for each tree is realistic, if stylized. If the aspen danced on its “tippy toes,” readers would still see the same tree swaying in the wind.

There’s a lot to love here for readers who can look past those pronouns.

(Picture book/poetry. 4-8)