Picture a Tree Review

picture-a-tree-300x290When you look at the cover of one of Barbara Reid’s picture books, you can sense you’re about to enjoy something unique in the world of children’s literature.  She uses a style called Plasticine and its three dimensional nature makes you want to reach out and touch the pages- in fact my young children do just that when they read them.  The first book we read of hers, Fox Walked Alone, offers a fresh and interesting perspective on the Noah’s Ark story.  The next one we checked out was Picture a Tree, a book that shows trees in a way that is as unique as her illustration techniques.

Since embracing the present moment in a more whole-hearted way, trees have for the first time become more than simply trees to me.  They are pillars of serenity; something to pay attention to, not something to casually walk by.  Their beauty beckons differently with each season.  I can only assume that Ms. Reid feels similarly.  Why else would someone author a book that helps us embrace trees in a myriad of wonderful ways?  She must know that trees are something special and it’s delightful she found such a simple and compelling way to demonstrate that.

There are books out there that use the concept of a cloud being different animals, things, and anything else imaginable, but none to my knowledge has done that kind of thing with a tree.  Maybe that’s because most people think of them as too static to be the “star” of a book.  Picture a Tree shows that trees are anything but stuck in the ground.  One of the most clever pictures in my opinion is that trees can be “A game of dress up.” and the illustrations that pair with it (e.g., a bald man whose hat flew off his head in front of a bare tree with a robin flying away) will probably garner some giggles.  The pages that depict a tree with various creatures in it next to the high-rise apartment full of people in their windows requires a good deal of time to soak in.  That page is a prime example of why I love reading picture books with my children so much- we’re discovering together something new every time.

One especially thought provoking picture has a subtle changing of seasons.  Pause on that page and maybe ask your child, “What do you think is starting or ending in this picture?”  Trees are wonderful examples of the concept of the fluidity of life- are the leaves starting to change color the beginning of fall or the end of summer?  Trees ultimately teach us that maybe there is no “true” beginning or “true” ending- much like the buds Ms. Reid draws our attention to during winter.

At the end she invites the reader to, “Picture a tree.  What do you see?”  To piggy-back off that, consider picking a day to go outside and “picture a tree” in your neighborhood.  Try all kinds of perspectives- up close, far away, laying underneath, during different seasons, etc.  And since these illustrations are luscious enough to touch but still leave you touching paper, go ahead and touch that tree- absorb the tree with your child in every possible way you can with the five senses.  Inhale it and the air around it.  Listen to it. What does it “say”?  Maybe don’t lick it though.  Unless you’re in Vermont and lucky enough to be on a maple syrup tour.  Then, lick away.

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