Picture a Tree
written and illustrated by Barbara Reid
2013 (Albert Whitman)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
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What do you see when you see a tree? After reading Picture a Tree, the possibilities may be endless. This book brings up so many variables to be considered when thinking about trees. One prominent variable is the season. Spring brings out the vivid colors while summer provides valuable shade. Fall can mean a spectacular bon voyage while winter reveals a skeleton that has a unique beauty of its own. Another variable involves the living thing using the tree. A small animal sees a tree as a place of habitation or a source of food. Small children find trees to be excellent hiding places or somewhere to think your deepest thoughts while older humans seek to bird watch or find a shady place to walk. Where you are viewing the trees is yet another variable. Driving on a street lined with trees creates a tunnel effect. A view from a tall building might yield a vision of an ocean of trees. After reading Picture a Tree, you may see trees from a whole different perspective.
As with her previous book, Perfect Snow, Barbara Reid has created Plasticine illustrations that are phenomenal. The textures of the different objects are so vivid that I fully expected to feel tree bark when I turned a page. I enjoyed looking at spreads again and again to see different touches. Ice cream and people's hair are much more interesting in Plasticine. Go to Barbara Reid's website to see more of her work and several examples of student work created with this material.
Before reading this book, I would challenge students to think of all the different ways a tree could be used. I would go back to this list after reading and see what other answers are generated. This would be a good book to use when working on categorization. You could list the seasons and ask students to write and/or draw what they see in trees during these seasons. Folding a paper in half and creating the categories of practical and imaginative for uses of a tree would be a fun exercise as well. Picture yourself finding this book and using it in your classroom or library.