Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari illustrated by Felicita Sala

Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari

illustrated by Felicita Sala

Review Copy from Abrams Kids

I picture-walked Be a Tree! three times before I actually read the words. Felicita Sala's illustrations for Maria Gianferrari's poetic text are mesmerizingly immersive and richly colorful within a palette of earth tones. Throughout the text, Gianferrari, who shares her inspiration for this book in the author's note (Peter Wohleben's The Hidden Life of Trees), gently maintains the human connection to trees and the connections (and communications) trees share with each other. 

Be a Tree! begins exuberantly, inviting the reader to "Be a tree! Stand tall. Stretch your branches to the sun. Let your roots curl, coil in the soil to ground you." From your spine/trunk to your skin/bark and your heart/pith, the words carry you inward and then zoom outward and up to the canopy and ultimately, the forest. "You are one of many trees," and our roots "twine with fungi, joining all trees" in a "wood wide web of information." Sala's illustrations for this passage are increasingly abstract, yet surprisingly informative. Be a Tree! moves from the connective, communicative unseen, to ecosystems. Making her final point, connecting the supportive community of trees to the (need for a supportive) community of humans, she shows that vulnerable "immigrant trees," away from native habitats, are sheltered by strong trees. "Old trees shade new trees," and "Healthy trees help sick trees." Gianferrari and Sala end their marvelous book with the words, "So, be a tree. For together, we are a forest," beneath a diverse group of children and adults, smiling and holding hands and hugging.

Back matter includes "Five Ways You Can Help Save Trees," tips on helping in your community, a two page spread detailing the anatomy of a tree, websites and a truly wonderful list of "further reading and viewing" that has several picture books on it!

Trees are magical, and reading Be a Tree! (and poring over the futher reading list) made me think back on some of my favorite tree-centered books.
by Joseph Hawkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
While I have not reviewed this wonderful picture book biography, having been a librarian at a school in San Diego county, I read it out loud many times. Sessions was one of the first women to attend U.C. Berkely and was recognized internationally for her efforts to collect species and introduce them to new habitats.

And for adults . . .

The Overstory by Richard Powers
If Be a Tree! was a novel for adults, it might be this . . .

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