Book Review | This Tree Counts
by Alison Formento

Score: 3.5

Illustrated by Sarah Snow

© 2010, Albert Whitman & Company.

One large oak tree stood at the back of Oak Lane School. Mr. Tate wants his class to plant some more oak trees, but before they do, he asks them to listen to the big tree’s story. As they stop and hug the tree, the class hears the animals that make the tree home. They also learn about the wonderful things trees do for the environment, the names of trees and the many ways animals and humans use trees. Once Mr. Tate feels the children understand trees better, that “trees count,” he allows them to start planting their ten baby oak trees.

The story’s text is simple and uses the concept of counting to ten as a way to see and understand the importance of trees in our world. The illustrations are stunning, created as collages of found papers, acrylic and watercolor paints, their colors are alive and warm.

The children of the class are of every ethnicity and race, which makes for the one issue in this almost perfect book. It is found in a short, simple sentence: “’What about Christmas trees?’ Jake asked./ ‘Those are fir trees,’ Mr. Tate said./‘They stay green all year long’.” The picture of the “Christmas tree” is plain – no decorations – just an evergreen pine tree. Jake is depicted with a candy cane in his hand. Given the multicultural nature of the class and the lack of Christmas decorations on the tree, it could almost be overlooked. I wonder why it had to be included at all? The book would be absolutely perfect for any classroom, Jewish or otherwise, without it. Nevertheless, it is there, and I feel an obligation to point out.

Perhaps you would use this for an Earth Day celebration rather than Tu B’Shevat to demonstrate how the entire world knows and celebrates what the Jewish people have known for thousands of years. Trees Count!

Grades K – 3rd

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