Sixteen uncommon trees from around the world describe themselves, in first, er, person, in this charmingly illustrated but odd French import.
Each woody marvel is described in a separate two-page, colorfully bordered spread, with facts given on the verso and a dreamy, folk-style painting opposite. Included are such strange botanicals as the “ghost tree,” the “bullhorn tree,” and the “dynamite tree.” Problems branch out: the trees don’t say if their nicknames are common usage—or if they’re the author’s own arch inventions. The “self-portraits” provide some useful information, including scientific and/or other common names and occasional thumbnail sketches of fruits and seeds, though some facts may be over the target audience’s heads. However, the “autobiographies” are also often marred by silly, self-conscious hipness. The trees’ places of origin are only seldom named within the descriptions, and maps of continents on the endpapers are only very general guides. The sprightly paintings sometimes reflect stereotypes: a male Native American standing next to a sequoia carries a tomahawk and wears a Plains Indian feathered headdress, for instance. Furthermore, while noteworthy, some trees aren’t so strange or little-known at all, despite exotic monikers: the “chocolate tree” is the cocoa tree, the “forty-coin tree” is the gingko biloba, and the “giant sequoia” is the renowned U.S. treasure. There is no glossary.
An appealingly if occasionally problematically illustrated browser that may pose more questions than it answers. (Informational picture book. 6-9)