Sanchez introduces a new perspective on this potentially itch-causing plant: Poison ivy plays a vital role in providing food for forest animals throughout the year, especially at times when other food is scarce.
While Sanchez litters the text with warnings about staying away from poison ivy (“Hairy vine—a warning sign!”), the focus is mostly on the plant’s importance to mammals, birds, insects, amphibians and reptiles. Urushiol, a chemical in its sap, may give humans an itchy rash, but animals are immune to its effects, so they can safely nibble its leaves, vines and berries, collect the nectar from its flowers, hide under its leafy, moist shade, and use its rootlets to line nests. Brickman nicely shows both the diversity of the leaves of the poison ivy plant (“Like snowflakes, no two poison ivy leaves are exactly alike”) and how it changes through the seasons. An artist’s note explains how the illustrations were created; surprisingly, no materials from nature were used—only painted paper cut and shaped and glued in place. The result is surprisingly realistic, though some of the larger mammals look a bit stiff. Backmatter answers some common questions about poison ivy.
While most readers won’t become cheerleaders for poison ivy, they will at least come away with a greater understanding of its importance and an increased ability to identify it. (Informational picture book. 4-8)