Every tree has its own story to tell in this evocative collection of poems celebrating the many varieties—from maple to willow to oak.
There are so many different kinds of trees in the world, and each has special qualities that make it unique. This lyrical, fanciful collection of poems celebrates the singular beauty of each tree, from the gnarled old apple tree to the tall and graceful aspen.
Verlie Hutchens is an author and artist who lives in a wildly cluttered house in Easthampton, Massachusetts, after a lifetime of living in the outdoors as much as possible. She has been a lover of trees and birds and animals since she was a child, and the trees in her picture book Trees are all ones she has known personally.
Jing Jing Tsong is a mom, musician, and surfer whose grown-up job is drawing pictures. Her technique, which layers color and texture, is influenced by her experiences working in traditional stone lithography and monoprints. Her debut picture book, A Bucket of Blessings, written by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal, was a New York Times bestseller. Jing Jing and her husband Mike Austin (also a designer turned illustrator) live on an island in Washington state. Visit her at JingJingTsong.com.
Free verse poems succinctly extol the virtues of 14 types of trees. For example, “Aspen, tall and graceful, / dances on her tippy toes. / Her golden leaves like castanets / shimmer in the breeze.” A double-spread illustration accompanies the words and shows aspen trees in autumn with their bright golden leaves in front of snow-capped mountains. The wide variety of trees mentioned include palm, red bud, dogwood, white pine, birch, and willow. Poems, consisting of only one or two sentences, explain why each type of tree is unique and special. The illustrations, “rendered as a digital collage of block print and hand-painted elements,” are lovely and include other living creatures in addition to each highlighted tree, such as people, birds, cats, and squirrels. Tall trees—oak, spruce, and sequoia—require the book to be turned vertically for the poems to be read and the illustrations admired. Many of the pictures have swirls in the background, reminiscent of the rings of a tree, that also make up the front and back endpapers. Some poems are lighthearted, such as the red bud with its “pink-purple giggles,” while others are reverent: “The sequoia holds memories for the Tribe of Trees.” Flowing words and striking illustrations combine beautifully in this tribute. — Maryann Owen
– Booklist *STARRED REVIEW*, Dec 1, 2018
Tsong’s block-printed and hand-painted elements add depth and movement to cheerful digital collage illustrations that cleverly vary location and perspective, adding an extra layer of fun to the accounting of quirky tree personalities.
– Publishers Weekly, 2/11/19
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....There's a lot to love here...
– Kirkus Reviews, 12/15/18
K-Gr 2–This picture book contains short free verse poems about 14 different species of trees along with sweeping spreads of corresponding artwork. The different personalities of the trees are beautifully captured by Jing Jing Tsong’s detailed paintings and block prints, which she arranges into digital collages. The artwork is full of sensitivity and whimsy and highlights the interconnectedness of all life; this is where the book truly shines. Some spreads invite readers to turn the book lengthwise, allowing the tall trees to pierce the sky. Others, like the panorama of the palm tree, playfully dance widthwise across the page, following the breeze. In many spreads, children are dwarfed by the trees’ magnificence, admiring them, playing beneath their leaves, or even being antagonized by a windy branch. The reader’s vantage point hovers above the ground and sometimes even takes a squirrel’s-eye view, as in the delightfully golden aspen spread. Hutchens’ poetry personifies each tree, likening some to wise, old grandparents and others to unruly uncles. By humanizing the trees, she facilitates emotional intimacy. Young readers will come away wondering about the trees in their neighborhoods, and the book could encourage their own creative exploration. VERDICT A gentle, gorgeous book to share with the youngest explorers of the natural world. Highly recommended.-Shannon O’Connor, Unami Middle School, Chalfont, PA
– School Library Journal *STARRED REVIEW*, April 2019