The things that I love about trees by Chris Butterworth
Ill. by Charlotte Voake. Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9780763695699
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Trees, Environment, Seasons. With the sparest of words, Butterworth encapsulates the reality of a tree as it has leaves in spring, blossoms and forms fruit in the summer, which is ready to pick in the autumn and then becoming bare in the winter. Each season is described in spare prose, making it at once easy for younger readers to understand and impelling older readers to find out more. The illustrations bear testament to the tree and its life cycle through the four seasons, reaffirming the words as they travel with the tree over its year.
Each page has a new adventure with the tree that is loved. The first double page shows a young girl coming out of her front door of the flats to see the bare branches of the plum tree hovering over the balcony. The tree is covered in tiny sprouting leaves with buds forming and getting bigger.
We see the buzzing bees as the tree wakes. It is spring.
Later in summer, trees are dressed in their finery, covered with bright green new leaves. The plum tree has small round fruit appearing.
As autumn approaches the trees develop coloured leaves as they begin to shed, and the nuts and fruit ripen for the animals to find and eat or store.
Winter sees the wind has blown the leaves form the trees, leaving them bare and stark in the cold. The last double page shows the girl outside her flat looking at the tree as it waits for spring to come around once again.
Children will love reading of the trees and their cycle of life, the contribution they make to their surroundings, and the animals that benefit from their being there. On each page is the story of the tree and its life cycle, but also on each page in a different font are sentences giving facts about the trees. Children will readily absorb the details as they read the book and its illustrations, a distinctive style which perfectly suits the words with its lightness of touch, spare colour and use of white space. I love the branches arching over the pages, and the floating leaves scattered across many of the pages, and the perfect stillness of the bare trees in winter, their magnificence barely needing to be mentioned will make the reader gasp as they turn the last pages.
At the end of the book is a brief index, allowing children to learn how to use an index and giving them a reason to go back and look again at what they have read.
Children will be encouraged to take longer looks a the trees around them, noting their changes through the seasons, seeing what animals depend upon the tree and its produce, seeing what they can do with the tree. Next to the index is a range of things children and classes can do: collect leaves and nuts, make outlines, collect leaves, make a shelter etc. I am sure readers and teachers will be able to think up a pile of other things that children can do when they finish reading this stunning book, encouraging children to look anew at what is found outdoors.