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Monday, January 31, 2011

Redwoods, written and illustrated by Jason Chin. Roaring Brook Press, H B Fenn, 2009. $19.99 ages 6 and up

"Amazingly, such a tall tree
starts from a seed about the
size of a tomato seed. A
one-inch-long cone that houses
the seed falls to the ground, and
if the conditions are right, the tree
will sprout. With enough light and
water a redwood sapling can
grow fast - up to two feet per

It seems I have been wanting this book for ages; and I am so thankful to Lisa at H B Fenn who made sure it was in my hands less than a week after asking to see it. It is a remarkable book of nonfiction, giving kids who long 'for the facts, ma'am, just the facts', exactly that. Along with those amazing facts Jason Chin offers up a parallel story in the detailed watercolor illustrations. Not one word of the boy's story is told; it is there for observant readers to follow as they share the multitude of information he learns about the magnificent redwood trees of northern California and southern Oregon. As he explores the beauty and wonder of the redwood forest, he has a that will grab the attention of younger listeners and keep them focused on all that is going on in the art.

It is this mix of fact and fiction that I have dubbed 'faction' when I am sharing books such as this in classrooms and with children. The boy's interest is piqued when he finds a book as he waits for the subway. Isn't that the way that many of us become interested in a previously unknown topic? He reads as he rides and is soon caught up in the magic of the words. He exits the subway station and runs smack into the trees that have so captured his interest. As we accompany him, we make the many discoveries he makes. His expressive face constantly shows the impact of the learning and the awe he feels in the beauty of this incredible forest.

Jason Chin's ability to give perspective to the immense tree that is a redwood will be much appreciated by his readers. As the boy rappels down from the tree and returns to the big cityscape that is his home, we are privy to its true height. When he realizes the lateness of the hour, he hurriedly leaves the book on the bench where he has been sitting. It's in a perfect place to be discovered by an another intrepid explorer...and off she goes on her own adventure.

I love the connection that Jason Chin has made from beginning to end by placing the young girl on the title page, that same girl who is destined to make her own trip through the redwood forest. He provides a glimpse at the danger these trees face, gives readers a field notebook page describing the 'coast redwood' and showing its needles and in actual size and giving perspective on how we humans measure up to its immensity.

In a review of this very worthy work I read that it is 'a contagious celebration of the relationship between information and imagination, the pure joy of learning'...encore!

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