Minor’s paintings are glorious; the textual conceit is a little overdone

SEQUOIA

A giant sequoia experiences the world around “him” in Johnston’s romantic, image-laden, anthropomorphic rendering of the life experiences of the largest tree on the planet.

This sequoia “feels,” “waits,” “counts,” “gazes,” “tells”—all verbs attributed to Sequoiadendron giganteum. The author describes large and small events that occur: Birds and beasts visit and shelter, weather changes, forest fires rage, seasons turn. It is all very poetic and expresses the author’s subjective understanding of the sequoia. Fortunately, facts about the great trees are nicely summarized in endnotes. Minor’s gouache watercolors convey the action and present a more realistic picture of the theme. He shows the tree, the changing seasons, the sky, the animals and birds that live in the tree’s branches, roots, environs. Occasionally he demands a 90-degree turn of the book, so readers can see a (relatively) tiny bear dwarfed by the towering tree. His paintings give the words life, although the animals are not identified: Is that a ground squirrel or a chipmunk? a crow or a raven? and what species is the owl flying in the moonlight? Perhaps it does not matter, since this is impressionistic free verse, lines often breaking with no apparent poetic need, rather than natural history.

Minor’s paintings are glorious; the textual conceit is a little overdone . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59643-727-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A TREE IS NICE

A nursery school approach to a general concept. "A tree is nice"- Why? Because..."We can climb the tree...play pirate ship...pick the apples...build playhouses out of the leaves. A tree is nice to hang a swing in...Birds build nests in trees... Sticks come off trees...People have picnics there too"...etc. etc. One follows the give and take of a shared succession of reactions to what a tree- or trees- can mean. There is a kind of poetic simplicity that is innate in small children. Marc Simont has made the pictures, half in full color, and they too have a childlike directness (with an underlying sophistication that adults will recognize). Not a book for everyone -but those who like it will like it immensely. The format (6 x 11) makes it a difficult book for shelving, so put it in the "clean hands" section of flat books. Here's your first book for Arbor Day use- a good spring and summer item.

Pub Date: June 15, 1956

ISBN: 978-0-06-443147-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1956

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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