Tree by Melina Sempill Watts


Tree
by Melina Sempill Watts
Change the World Books, 2017

I loved this book, it consumed my imagination.  Tree starts out as an acorn and grows to be nearly 250 years old.  We share in the tree’s experience as Indian cultures are replaced with Mexican and eventually Caucasian cultures.  The reader also experiences how Tree learns to connect and communicate with the environment around it; its in these connections that we learn the science.

Ms Watts knows her science and writes this fictional piece in layman’s terms to describe the science.  She packs so much into each section, it’s what I would call very dense writing, but when I got done I felt so connected to the story, to the character, and to the science of it.  It’s an eye and heart opening story.  (Written for adults, although teens may find it fascinating as well.)

Ms. Watt attended UCLA and worked 14 years as a Watershed Coordinator in the area where the story takes place.  Visit Ms Watt’s youtube interview (https://youtu.be/tUx3twJDisQ) to meet her and share in her enthusiasm about the story.  Anyone with an affinity to trees or interest in the environment will find the story fascinating and inspiring.

You can read more reviews and order on Amazon.

Kirkus Reviews gave Tree a 5 Star review:

…. The saga of Tree becomes a window into the immensity of nature, simultaneously dynamic and everlasting, and the ways that humans have come to upset the ancient balance. Watts writes in an elegant, highly detailed prose that shows an incredible knack for chronicling the minutiae of the natural world. …    An ingenious and satisfying tale about a single live oak. … Read complete review at https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/melina-sempill-watts/treeT/

Book Summary

Tree is a novel about a tree written from a unique point of view: the chief narrator is a tree. Tree uses magical realism as a key to access the interrelated emotional realities of the many species that share one pristine valley in Topanga, California. Grass, birds, other trees and animals come to life on the pages, while one 19th century Mexican woman and one 20th century school boy, hearts opened by grief and loneliness, come to know one California live oak whose 229 years span the evolution of four human civilizations, Chumash, Spanish/Mexican, Yankee and new money Hollywood, which each leave their mark upon the landscape and upon Tree. The author’s obsessive botanical, scientific and historical research give substance to a world that feels both as real as last weekend’s dust on hiking boots and as mind altering as a fully fledged mystical experience. Take a journey into the heart of the woods where every plant shines Tree will change how you see nature.

The Day I Ran Away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Day I Ran Away
by Holly L. Niner, illustrated by Isabella Ongaro
Flash Light Press, 2017

At bedtime, Gloria tells her Daddy her story of why and how she ran away that day.  She ‘had’ to run away because her purple shirt was dirty and she had to wear a white one and her favorite cereal was all gone.  Serious matters for the very youngest.  When she threw a temper tantum, she ended up in her room on time out. When she colored her white shirt purple, mom was furious and that’s when she decided to run away. When she announced she was leaving, her mom packed her a lunch. But when she got to the street, she remembered she was not allowed to cross it.  Fortunately, her mom had an idea.

This cleverly told story truly captures a little one’s thoughts. On each spread, illustrator Isabella Ongaro shows a patient father listening to his daughter’s woes and a loving mother setting limits while at the same time guiding her daughter towards resolutions.

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Mela and the Elephant

Mela and the Elephant
Dow Phumiruk, illustrated by Ziyue Chen
Sleeping Bear Press, 2018

An adventurous young Mela leaves behind her brother, for he has nothing to trade her, and borrows her uncle’s boat to chase a fish down river. Soon she is too far down and cannot row up the swift waters. She offers an alligator her fish, if he would return her to the village. She tosses him the fish and he swims away. She attempts to trade with other animals and is soon left with nothing to trade, alone and lost. An elephant offers to take her home, with nothing in trade.  Mela learns kindness is its own reward.

Concludes with a bit of a ‘preachy’ ending, but great for discussion.  Illustrator Ziyue Chen engages young readers into the story when she captures facial expressions of an independent and brave Mela on her adventure.

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Tilly and Tank

Tilly and Tank
by Jay Fleck
Tundra Books, 2018

I was apprehensive of a book featuring a tank, but delightfully surprised at the originality of the friendship story inside.

The story opens with Tilly noticing “a different kind of elephant” in the distance. Then, from Tank’s perspective, we see how he sees the “barrel and turret” of the strange tank. Tilly is the one who approaches, while Tank sounds off warnings. Tank’s response to Tilly’s “Hello” was a loud Boom! Tilly runs. After several attempts Tilly leaves behind a gift.  When Tank checks out the “weapon”, he realizes the strange tank was a “friend”.

Tilly’s innocence contrasting with Tank’s appearance of violence keep the pages turning.  While Tank appears violent, his voice has a genuine softness, reframing the tank’s image.  A brilliantly told and illustrated story.

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Bunny’s Book Club

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bunny’s Book Club
by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2017

Children who love books will relate to book-loving Bunny who has a new adventure in each book he reads. When outdoor reading days at the library ended, he was beside himself. Searching for a way into the library, he discovered the book return!  He danced and pranced and snatched every book he could, to take home and read. “Soon, his home was more books than burrow!” Then, one by one, he invited his friends to join him in the library until one morning—the librarian!

Illustrator Tatjana Mai-Wyss has done an amazing job capturing each animal’s passion for reading.

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The simple artwork showing Taylor, each animal, and his blocks emphasize the emotions Taylor feels.

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Ducks Away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ducks Away!
by Mem Fox, illustrated by Judy Horacek
Scholastic Inc., 2018

Written for the earliest of readers, Ducks Away! Is a lyrical, nurturing book of a mother duck and her five ducklings—and a counting book, too!

Five little ducks waddle across a bridge when a gust of wind sweeps one into the river.  Mother Duck worries, “What should I do? Where should I go, with four on the bridge and one below?” She continues to worry, when another and another and eventually all five fall into the river.  Hesitant about jumping off the bridge, the little ducks encourage her to jump!

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Nerdy Birdy Tweets

Nerdy Birdy Tweets
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Matt Davies
A Neal Porter Book, 2017

Young and old will delight in this story that works in humor, as well as real-life social media issues, on many levels.

Nerdy Birdy discovers a new online game (social media) called “Tweetster”. In a short time he has fifty new Tweetster friends.  The more excited Nerdy Birdy gets, the gloomy his best friend Vulture gets. Vulture reminds Nerdy Birdy he could eat him in one bite, but Nerdy Birdy is so attached to the game, he absently says, “Mm-Hm. That’s nice.”  Vulture left, and that’s when Nerdy Birdy started to miss his friend.  The next day Vulture surprised his friend with a tweet!  They tweeted together all morning. After lunch an embarrassing picture of Vulture appeared. Nerdy Birdy thought it was funny, but Vulture was so mad, he left.

This story is a delight to read and, if parents or teachers like, could open the door to discussions about social media and the value of “real” friends.  The illustrations, rendered in pen and ink and watercolor, humorously features tiny Nerdy Birdy juxtaposed with humongous Vulture.

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I Love Dad with the Very Hungry Caterpillar

I Love Dad with the Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle
Grosset & Dunlap, 2018

An adorable board book for infants and young toddlers and a perfect companion book to The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

The brief story tells of a youngster who shares good times with dad, a couple prickly times with dad, as well as how dad comforts the youngster.

Delighting readers, a very hungry caterpillar appears on each page inviting young readers to find it.  It’s Eric Carle at his best in his latest book.

Young readers will meet colorful parrots, seals, gorillas, prickly porcupines, and more in this simple tale.

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Pet Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pet Dad
Elanna Allen
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018

For every child who wants a pet—or another pet—this is the perfect book.

Plum wants a pet, but dad is firm that he doesn’t want a pet, so Plum does only what a little child can do, pretend his dad is her pet!  Her new pet loves to have its tummy rubbed and his ears scratched, but he refuses to roll over, eat her meals or be ‘paper-trained’ for his business.  Her pet just won’t do the tricks she wants, until she comes up with a new approach, that works every time!

Moving illustrations are done in muted colors and accented with Plum’s bright greens and blacks and bright orange for the “No’s.”  An imaginative, ‘what if dad were a pet’ story filled with humor.

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The Rabbit Listened

The Rabbit Listened
by Cori Doerrfeld
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2018

This is a book I wished I had written; it shares with kids and parents how listening goes a long ways in allowing another to be themselves.  In our busy world where we quickly solve the problem and move on to the next, we forget to slow down and listen, allowing the person to resolve the situation in their own way.

The story opens with Taylor deciding to build something new and great with his blocks, and he does. But then birds fly by and crash down his magnificent structure.  Taylor is sad.  First chicken comes by and consoles Taylor, suggesting he needs to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t want to talk. Then bear comes by and suggests Taylor let out his anger, but Taylor doesn’t feel like shouting. Other animals come by suggesting other things be done, but Taylor didn’t want to do their suggestions and remained alone when they all left.  Until a rabbit showed up. A rabbit who listened to Taylor, instead of telling Taylor what he should do.  And indeed, once someone listened and Taylor felt heard, he ran through, on his own, many of the things suggested.  Someone needed to listen.

The simple artwork showing Taylor, each animal, and his blocks emphasize the emotions Taylor feels.

Read more reviews and purchase on Amazon.