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"Once there was a grand old tree." So begins this lovely, spare story of the life cycle of a dogwood tree, with nary a human in sight to sentimentalize (or speed up) the process. Indeed, through all four seasons, this ever-changing grand old tree is home to birds, squirrels and bugs. She flowers, bears red fruit, loses and regrows her leaves, sows seeds and has many children, spread far and wide. Over the years, she basks in the sun, bathes in the rain, sways in the breeze and dances in the wind until she can sway and dance no more. When she's very old, she falls over and dies, but as a log she still provides a home to many creatures and her offspring keep on keepin' on. DePalma's delicate tissue-paper collage and watercolor illustrations (with miscellaneous fibers) are winningly simple and her big-eyed animals are sweetly comical, especially the fruit-munching squirrel buddies and the fat, leaf-sailing ladybugs. A winsome introduction to the cycles of life. (Picture book. 4-8)
\\\\\\\\Depalma, Mary Newell. The Grand Old Tree. Nov. 2005. 32p. illus. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $16.99 (0-439-62334-0).
PreSGr. 1. For many years a tree flourishes. It shelters birds, squirrels, and insects while flowering, bearing fruit, shedding leaves, and providing seeds that grow into many new trees. After the old tree dies, it still provides a home to animals and insects as it slowly decomposes. Meanwhile, its offspring grow and flourish, “home to many creatures, just like the grand old tree.” The simple text conveys the tree's life and death in a matter-of-fact way, but with well-chosen words that are poetic in the economy of their expression and the precision of their imagery. On one page, words combine with an illustration to form a concrete poem, with the text forming the shape of the trunk and the ground and the picture representing the tree's crown, the sky, and a bird. Neither sentimental nor unfeeling, this appealing picture book offers an appreciation of the cycle of life through a story that is accessible to young children. Carolyn Phelan
DEPALMA, Mary Newell. A Grand Old Tree. illus. by author. unpaged. CIP. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2005. Tr $16.99. ISBN 0-439-62334-0. LC 2004023407.
PreS-Gr 2The life cycle of a tree is introduced through deceptively simple text and art. DePalma's short, measured phrases turn facts about a tree's growth, “her” seasonal changes, and the home “she” provides to a variety of creatures into an ode to an often-overlooked part of the natural world. The fact that the tree is given a female persona makes “her” seem that much more alive than if “she” were an “it.” “Her roots sank deep into the earth, her arms reached high into the sky.” The art superbly complements the writing. The use of white space to set off the child-inspired illustration style allows the words to stand out and makes the entire design clear and crisp. The tree's demise on a winter evening is particularly striking. Perfect for storyhour and for beginning readers, this book will make a grand addition to most collections.Maura Bresnahan, High Plain Elementary School, Andover, MA