A child-friendly version of the popular adult title The Hidden Life of Trees (2016).
There is irony in the idea of revising for children an adult book that boldly challenges the conventional science that keeps humanity strongly detached from the plant kingdom. Indeed, many books for children already deliberately and effectively use terminology of human activities to introduce the vocabulary and rudiments of photosynthesis, and so does this text. The latter word never occurs here, although it states: “Leaves mix water with certain parts of the air to make sugar,” and notes the need for light to produce energy. It goes on to describe tree leaves as having thousands of tiny mouths for breathing and later notes that trees don’t drink in winter because “you can’t drink ice cubes.” Intense anthropomorphism continues throughout, with chapters discussing such topics as tree classrooms, mother trees, and how an “annoyed” birch tree will use the wind to whip its branches against an encroaching tree. Occasionally, readers will notice apparent contradictions, unlikely assumptions, and odd duplication, perhaps a result of the reduction. Nevertheless, the book is full of pertinent information, including the importance of fungi to roots and of trees to one another. The author transmits both wonder and fun, even adding tree-themed activities for children to try with willing adults. A forest’s worth of appealing sidebars, pop-up quizzes with fascinating statistics, and colorful photographs add to a strong subtext: Forest preservation is not just important, but imperative.
A tree-treatise treat. (Nonfiction. 8-12)