PETER AND THE TREE CHILDREN

Writing a fictionalized version of himself, naturalist Wohlleben gives lessons to orphaned talking squirrel Piet as they search for tree families in this stripped-down storybook version of The Hidden Life of Trees (2016).

Both Peter and Piet have cartoonlike faces with round, black eyes, and the scenery—bright with earth tones and generic foliage—also resembles bland commercial animation. While Peter presents as a ruddy-faced white man sporting a gray beard, the only other named human—Dana—is a woman of color, dressed in overalls and engaged in sustainable forestry. Kudos for this. Otherwise, the text tries too hard to intersperse interesting facts about trees and squirrels—some rudimentary, others relatively obscure—into a simplistic plot: Lonely squirrel seeks family; takes walk with Peter; still feels lonely; gains Peter as family. Among other things, young readers learn that trees often need the protection of older, taller trees to grow up properly; that heavy equipment compacts earth too hard for seeds to get started; that hawks prey on squirrels; that squirrels help start beech seedlings; that some trees release an orange-smelling distress signal. Oddly, Peter gives no credit to people planting saplings in the wake of deforestation, since these unprotected trees will “have a hard life” without families. Can You Hear the Trees Talking? (2019) superbly adapted Wohlleben’s bestseller for middle graders; this patronizing attempt to bring it to a still younger audience fails.

Overworn coattails. (foreword, endnotes) (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-457-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greystone Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text.

KINDNESS GROWS

Rhyming verses about kindness using a consistent metaphor of widening cracks versus blooming plants are amplified by cutouts on each page.

The art and layout are spectacular, from the cover through the double-page spreads near the end. Racially diverse toddlers are shown engaging in various moods and behaviors, some of which create unhappiness and some of which lead to friendship and happiness. Every page’s color palette and composition perfectly complement the narrative. The initial verso shows two children in aggressive stances, backgrounded by a dark, partly moonlit sky. Between them is a slender, crooked cutout. The large-type text reads: “It all / starts / with a / crack / that we can hardly see. / It happens when we shout / or if we disagree.” The recto shows two children in sunlight, with one offering a pretty leaf to the other, and the rhyme addresses the good that grows from kindness. In this image, the crooked die cut forms the trunk of a tiny sapling. Until the final double-page spreads, the art follows this clever setup: dark deeds and a crack on the left, and good deeds and a growing tree on the right. Unfortunately, the text is far from the equal of the art: It is banal and preachy, and it does not even scan well without some effort on the part of whomever is reading it. Still, the youngest children will solemnly agree with the do’s and don’ts, and they may decide to memorize a page or two.

Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-229-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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