Review Blog

Oct 23 2012

Are trees alive? by Debbie S. Miller

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Bloomsbury Publishing, 2012. ISBN 9781408173893.
(Age 5+) Recommended. Debbie S. Miller was inspired to consider the question 'Are trees alive?' when it was put to her by her daughter during a walk in the forest. The result is a book which invites younger readers to question their assumptions about the environment.
The life cycle of a tree and the roles of its parts are explained in simple but vivid language. Analogies with human life and the use of trees as sources of food and shelter, underscore the message that each tree is a living entity whose existence is intertwined with our own. The picture book format and the inclusion of a guide to the species of trees and animals pictured, ensure that the book's credibility as non-fiction is not undermined.
The illustrations by Stacey Schuett strengthen the concepts explained in the text. Each double page spread shows a richly coloured scene from a different part of the world and illustrates, in a sympathetic manner, how the people and animals there interact with a particular tree. Although written by an American author, the focus is global and multicultural. One of the trees presented is a ribbon gum in Australia.
Parents and teachers can decide if this book is appropriate for their audiences. Very young children may find the life affirming text and illustrations appealing but the small font could be challenging if they are independent readers. Older students can use the book as an introduction to the subject but will need to turn to more complex sources if they want to do further research. The information about tree species at the end of the book appears to have been written in very small font for adults.
Are trees alive? has a place on bookshelves at home and in primary school libraries. It will enrich both the book sharing experience and the discussions which follow.
Elizabeth Bor

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