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WE PLANTED A TREE by Diane Muldrow


by Diane Muldrow and illustrated by Bob Staake

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: March 9th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-375-86432-2
Publisher: Golden Books/Random

Using a quote from Wangari Maathai as a springboard, Muldrow’s poem delineates the tree’s seasonal cycles and celebrates its benefits for living creatures. In natural language, the narrator adopts a global view, lauding her subject’s abilities to cool the earth, clean the air and prevent erosion (“The tree kept the soil from blowing away— / Now rainwater could stay in the earth”). Staake is an accomplished illustrator with many New Yorker covers under his belt. His ultra-stylized depictions rove from Brooklyn to a presumed African plain, to Tokyo, Paris, New England and possibly the Cinque Terre (though one where apples and lemons yield concurrently), riding roughshod over the poet’s delicate allusions. The stripped-down computer-generated pictures vie with the ecology-focused subject rather than extending it, and the pie-eyed, inane expressions of the humans depicted around the globe flirt visually with the stereotypical cultural caricatures common to the mid-century European advertising posters that the illustrator credits as influences. Consider instead other children’s works inspired by Maathai, such as Donna Jo Napoli’s Mama Miti, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (2010). (Picture book. 4-8)