I like trees. I like reading about trees. I like studying trees. Celebritrees is a book that Susan recommended one Read Aloud Thursday, which confirmed another positive review I had already read of this book elsewhere. I haven’t had much time to search our local libraries’ catalogs for Cybils nominated titles (to read for the Armchair Cybils challenge, you know), but I happened to note that Celebritrees was nominated in the nonfiction picture books category. When I happened to see it on the shelf on our last library run, of course I had to bring it home.
Celebritrees is the type of book that makes a nice read-aloud over a period of several days. It’s encyclopedic in its format; each “celebritree” is given a two-page spread: one page of text and illustrations and a facing page of just the tree, illustrated in acrylic ink, colored pencil, and watercolor by Rebecca Gibbon. Each tree is introduced with some standard information: its name, species, location, and its age. Some of the famous trees in this book are Methuselah, “the oldest known single living organism on earth”; General Sherman, a giant sequoia in California; the Post Office Tree, a bur oak in Kansas that was used by travelers on the Santa Fe trail as a post offfice of sorts for those coming along behind them on the trail; and the Boab Prison Tree, a baobab in Australia that has been used as a temporary holding-place for prisoners. Obviously, at only about a page of text per tree (and it’s text interspersed with illustrations), this book really just provides enough information to pique one’s interest. The last six pages of the book contain additional information and a list of suggestions entitled “What can we do to help grow celebritrees?” I like the fact that ordinary trees (like the Tree That Owns Itself in Athens, Georgia) are included; this makes trees, even those in our backyard, seem important. The illustrations have a retro feel, perhaps because the book is printed on (recycled?) paper that isn’t pure white, giving the appearance that the book is aged. This book is one I think I liked it better than my girls did, but again, I like trees. One thing that was interesting for them is that we have actually seen one of the trees mentioned in the book–a moon tree (a tree grown from a seed which was taken to the moon as an experiment to see if this would affect its growth) grows in the back lot of Ivy Green, the birthplace of Helen Keller, which we have visited several times. This is a one-of-a-kind book that has the potential to spark all kinds of interesting dicussion and/or projects, and although we girls didn’t just love it, I think it’s a unique and worthwhile nonfiction picture book. (An added bonus for me is that it’s by Margi Preus, an author whose Newbery honor winning Heart of a Samurai I loved.)