Author/Illustrator: Barbara Reid
Publisher: Toronto: North Winds/Scholastic Canada, 2011
Genre: Picture book
Audience Age: 3 – 9 years
Themes/topics: different ways of seeing or describing a tree, nature, trees, variety
Opening Sentences: There is more than one way to picture a tree.
Synopsis: Through her incredible plasticine art (yes, the cover art above is all plasticine, which is a brand of modeling clay!), and her imaginative, evocative text, Canadian author/illustrator Barbara Reid shows a myriad of ways to think of trees. For example, a street with trees that form an arch over the roadway is a tunnel, while a little boy looking out over the city’s trees from his apartment balcony sees an ocean. Barbara Reid always astonishes me with her illustrations, which are plasticine embellished here and there with a touch of paint. My favorite spread in this book, “A tree can be a high-rise home sweet home,” not only shows many different creatures (animals, birds, wasps, and a kite) living in the tree, but also depicts in detail the high-rise building behind it, with a scene in every window – all in plasticine. I suppose technically this is a concept book, as there is no central character and no story line, but it is a concept book of the highest order.
Activities/Resources: A walk outdoors, whether in country or city, to look at trees and think of ways to describe them as Reid does in her book would be an excellent activity to pair with a reading of the book.
Barbara Reid’s website has a video that shows kids how to make a basic tree illustration from plasticine. One can also view the trailer for Picture a Tree, and watch a video about the making of the book which features the spread I mentioned above. There’s also a memory game on that page.
Having children make their own plasticine pictures, following Barbara Reid’s instructions, would be a perfect ending to a Picture a Tree day.
Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”