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)