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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Strange Trees: And the Stories Behind Them, by Bernadette Pourquie and Cecile Gambini. Translated by Yolanda Stern Broad. Princeton Architectural Press. 2016. $23.95 ages 8 and up

"You're trapped! You already put your finger on my page! But I promise that I won't strangle you right away as long as you need to read my story. One day, at dawn, in Asia, a bird eats the fresh flesh of a blood-red fig. Then it flutters over to the first tree it finds, where it leaves a little poop. And, with it, a banyan fig seed that starts to sprout. Roots form on the branch ... "

I am constantly aware of how much I do not know, and how much there is to learn on a daily basis. That is partly why I love to read new books about things that are mostly unfamiliar to me.

Isn't nature strange? We know that animals have made many remarkable adaptations when it comes to existing in their environment. Here, we learn that it is not unusual for plants to do the same thing. Here's a little something I learned about the Sausage Tree (Kigelia Africana):

"While my fruit may not end up on a plate, they are unusual and rather decorative, so people plant me anywhere the climate works for me: in Latin America, Asia, and Australia - I cast a fine shadow everywhere. But be careful, on your travels, not to take a nap under my branches. If one of my fruits falls on you, you would end up with a bump the size of an egg on your head!"

The fruit that looks like a sausage can be 'three feet long and weigh up to twenty-five pounds!' Some bump that would be!

With every turn of the page, we are introduced to a new 'strange tree'. The endpapers boast a rudimentary world map that places each of the named trees in its native habitat. I had some knowledge of  two of them - the giant sequoia and the chocolate tree. I was fascinated to read each spread - a page of information about each one faced with a colorful bordered image of the tree and its surroundings. There are sixteen of them. The descriptive language is humorous, clear and first person, making it fun to read and to share.

A word of caution: If you find yourself visiting South America and look to take cover under the Rain Tree (Saman), don't count on its leaves for protection. As might be expected when a shower surprises you, you would like to seek shelter. Under the Saman tree you will find none of that. Its leaves fold down to allow the rain to flow into its roots. Whoops!
Fun to browse, with new learning at its heart, I like it!

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