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Sunday, July 3, 2016

TREE. text by Patricia Hegarty and illustrations by Britta Teckentrup. Doubleday, Random House. 2015. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"Birds flit through the
leafy bowers.
The forest is abloom
with flowers.
Birds are singing,
foxes play.
Summertime is on
its way.
Now summer's here,
the sun is high.
Bees are humming ... "

An owl finds safety in a tree hole, and watches as the seasons pass. In winter, we see only the owl. Spring brings new buds and melting snow. Now, there are baby bears at the tree and learning to climb. As the leaves burst forth, birds begin to find space in its branches as do squirrels. Young foxes  make their way to its base, and playfully frolic.

As the apples begin to grow, the owl enjoys the warmth of summer winds as well as the presence of those that find comfort in the tree's presence. It also knows that the season will inevitably change and bring the cool nights of autumn. Animals will need to seek a place to spend the coming winter. Apples fall, leaves turn color and the tree is prepared for winter.

Finally, it is alone ... the owl and animals have disappeared to warmer, more protective spots to spend the coming cold days. What will next spring bring? Will the owl return?

In rhyming couplets, the writer invites readers to take a very close look at just one tree, and its impact on the environment. The seasons are all part of the lilting, enjoyable text and each one is honored for the part it plays in the way of all things natural.  Ms. Teckentrup's lovely cut out designs will delight young readers. As they turn the pages, they see the owl joined by other animals, as their story is included in the lively text. Then, she reverses the action and the cut-outs show less and less. There is so much to see, and so many details to savor. While the book's design remains the same from page to page, readers will seamlessly learn about color, seasons, the benefits of trees to the environment, and the wildlife that make the tree a home.

It's a perfect introduction to trees for kindergarten classrooms, and for all young readers.

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