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The Tree
     

The Tree

by Karen Gray Ruelle
 

This stunningly illustrated picture book takes a fascinating journey through time as it imagines the beginnings of New York City's oldest Elm.

In the heart of New York City stands a great, proud Elm tree, now 250 years old. Stronger than any skyscraper, this tree witnessed the very beginnings of the city's settlement, has persisted through vast fires and

Overview

This stunningly illustrated picture book takes a fascinating journey through time as it imagines the beginnings of New York City's oldest Elm.

In the heart of New York City stands a great, proud Elm tree, now 250 years old. Stronger than any skyscraper, this tree witnessed the very beginnings of the city's settlement, has persisted through vast fires and long wars, and has stood tall as the city has grown even taller around it. In this affectingly told and beautifully illustrated volume, Karen Gray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix imagine what might have been the beginnings of this grand tree, as well as describe the history it has witnessed.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
The 250-year history of a tree in Madison Square Park in New York City is presented in a rather dense text accompanied by bleak illustrations in dark tones. Speculating that a seed was dropped in the soil by a frightened chipmunk in 1686 and that the resulting sapling grew and thrived through the seasons, the tree was witness to many changes. In 1794 a potter's field held victims of yellow fever. Soldiers leaned against the tree when a military arsenal occupied the grounds in 1806. The arsenal was converted to an orphanage in 1825 which was later destroyed by a fire. Civil War campgrounds occupied the space from 1860-1865 and then P. T. Barnum established a hippodrome for his circus in 1873. The arm of the Statue of Liberty was displayed nearby beginning in 1876. A period of parades, celebrations, and riots occurred from 1889 -1920. Dutch elm disease killed many of the trees in the 1930s and the park fell into disrepair for over fifty years. Restoration began in 1986 and a 150th anniversary celebration of Madison Square Park was held in 1997. The featured tree is reaching the end of its life cycle, but the majestic trunk still stands tall. A time line of these events appears on the bottom of the pages, and three pages of historical notes appear at the end of the book. The audience for this book is not clear. Students and teachers in New York City might find the information useful in historical units of study. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal

Gr 2-5

More than 250 years ago, an elm tree took root in land that is now part of Madison Square Park in New York City. Ruelle and DeSaix offer verbal and visual views of some of the events that have occurred around the tree since then. Over the years, the area has served as a potter's field for unfortunates such as yellow fever victims, a campground for Civil War soldiers, and a gathering spot for political demonstrations. At various times, an orphanage, railroad station, baseball field, upscale hotel, and hippodrome have existed nearby. Because so much has happened in the area, the text must race through the list of events without space to provide much detail about any of them. A pictorial time line underneath the large illustrations offers an idea of the passage of time. Dark colors and grainy shadings give many of the paintings a gloomy appearance. Three pages of historical notes will be useful for teachers who want to use the book to illustrate how communities change through time. Bruce Hiscock's The Big Tree (S & S, 1994), which features the life of a sugar maple in the New York countryside, might work as an interesting companion to this work, for teachers who wish to compare and contrast urban and rural development. In short, although Ruelle's book is unlikely to attract casual readers, it could serve as a supplemental curriculum resource.-Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Kirkus Reviews
A stately elm tree in New York City's Madison Square Park is estimated to be 250 years old. Ruelle encourages readers to imagine the changes it's seen as she matches historical events to the growth of the tree, from its beginning in a rural landscape through its presence in the 21st-century metropolis. Because the land was set aside in 1686 as public space, it was spared from developers' blueprints for its entire history. But it has led a chequered life: It has been a potter's field, a military training ground, a children's refuge, the site of famed performance spaces and, somewhat surprisingly, the display venue of the arm of the Statue of Liberty. The author paces the narration perfectly, beginning leisurely and becoming more breathless as life in the city quickens, but she never forgets the tree's steady presence. DeSaix's softly drawn watercolors and rubbed oils beautifully capture the march of time and complement the text seamlessly. A vague timeline throughout the work is an unnecessary distraction from this charming piece of history. (historical notes) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780823419043
Publisher:
Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
09/28/2008
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
10.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Lexile:
AD810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

Karen Gray Ruelle is a former librarian who now works full-time as a children's book writer and illustrator. Her Harry & Emily Adventure easy reading books have been favorites of children learning to read. SLJ called her Snow Valentines, "an attractive addition to holiday shelves," while Booklist called her The Thanksgiving Beast Feast, "a rewarding Thanksgiving book for children." Ms. Ruelle lives in New York City.

Deborah Durland DeSaix, a former college professor, has written and illustrated many books for children. Reviews for her artwork are outstanding. Booklist praised her art in Know What I Saw by Aileen Fisher saying, "DeSaix steals the show, though, with lush, photorealistic scenes that are both large enough to use with groups and appealing enough to sweeten the subtraction lesson built into the 10-to-1 countdown premise." Ms. DeSaix lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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