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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree. Written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 ages 8 and up

"LEAFCUTTER ANTS live in underground colonies that range from several dozen to more than three or four million. These ants don't eat the leaves they collect. Instead, the ants take them to their nests, chew them up and use them to feed the fungus they grow from their own meals."

It is tremendous fun to visit the rainforest with Kate Messner in her new book! She focuses attention on the Almendro tree, which is its own ecosystem.

"A single ALMENDRO TREE can produce more than a million flowers when it blooms. Later, animals will come from all over the forest to eat the fruit that it bears. Many others are already here, hidden in the shadows and leaves, and depend on the tree not just for food but for a home. In all, more than a thousand different living things depend on this tree."

I had no idea! Once again, I am fully attentive to learning about something that is brand new to me. With each turn of the page readers discover some of animals that find shelter and sustenance within the branches of this 'wonder'ful tree. Macaws (2) and Toucans (4) eat the fruit. Howler monkeys (8) often take the fruit with them when they move, thus distributing seeds to other parts of the forest floor where new trees will grow. Fruit bats (16) do the same thing, and use the tree for shelter while they sleep away their days.

Those fruit bats may become prey for the Fer-De-Lance vipers (32) that can also be found in the almendro. Agoutis (64) live on the forest floor and forage for food there. They collect the seeds, bury them in places that they sometimes forget and thus also help to replenish the forest with new growth. Also included are the blue morpho butterfly (128), the poison dart frog (256), the rusty wandering spider (512), and the above-mentioned leafcutter ant (1,024). All are an integral part of the tree's life and survival.

I hope you noticed the numbers following the names of the tree's inhabitants. Kate Messner uses those numbers to encourage her readers to try some math problems in information that follows her informative text. She also adds further information about the tree itself, and offers websites to access if you would like to help with sustainability within the rainforest.

Simona Mulazzani uses acrylic and pencil on paper to create the gorgeous scenes that are full of detail. She provides an eye-catching glimpse at the beauty of the forest and its diversity.


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