Out in the real world, rainforests are disappearing at an alarming rate. In the world of children's books, however, the endangered ecosystems seem to be running rampant. In this rather syrupy picture book, professional storyteller Deedy grafts a flimsy Christmas story onto a not terribly well-thought-out (but suitably trendy) earth-friendly message of the sort that is becoming all too familiar. The coyly anthropomorphic stars (frequently--and most unfortunately--referred to in the text as the `` tree amigos'') are Ana Conda, a lipstick-wearing boa decked out--a la Carmen Miranda--in a fruit bowl hat; Slow Jim, a sloth who favors Hawaiian-print shirts; and a ``toucan named Bill, just Bill,'' whose self-deprecating nomenclature is repeated throughout the tale. When a plane flying low over the jungle lets loose a bag of mail, the trio come across a Christmas card featuring Santa, a load of presents and a Christmas tree. Led by this scene to deduce incorrectly that the red-suited fellow delivers trees in exchange for presents, the creatures dub him ``Treeman,'' and send him an assortment of tropical gifts. The story's grating faux-naivete is echoed in Ponte's mixed-media pictures--a jumble of colored pencil, watercolor and cut paper collage. A surfeit of cutesiness. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)
National Public Radio reporter Carmen Deedy wisely connects three of kids' favorite themes: rainforests, friendship, and Christmas, in one book. She describes three rainforest animals who "love trees more than anything, except each other." Deedy goes on to pepper her telling with the lovely word choices radio listeners have grown to expect. On a balmy evening (Deedy's good word choice, not mine), a lost sack of cards lands in the rainforest .Three friends find a Christmas card. Here Deedy's sense of playfulness kicks in. The friends see Santa next to a tree and decide he is Treeman. They decide that, if they can find him good presents, he will leave a tree to replace the burning trees they see in the distance. Because Deedy has a strong sense of audience, her asides are engaging, not intrusive. Her mix of English and Spanish flow instead of being forced. Her themes of giving and saving the rainforest are buried in a story that is led by characters, not mission. This is a holiday book that chldren will love all year long, and parents won't get sick of reading .
K-Gr 2-Three rainforest animals-a boa, a sloth, and a toucan-intercept some Christmas cards accidentally dropped from a mailbag. One of them shows Santa standing by a Christmas tree. The bird interprets this picture to mean that if you leave the man in red a present, he will leave you a tree. Deeply concerned about deforestation, the friends do just that. The gift is a fir, and a subsequent thank you note from Santa indicates that next year they may get a mango tree. The author's note explains that the point of all this is that the spirit guided these animals correctly and that they gained a protector in Treeman, a.k.a. Santa. This message is not at all clear from the story, which is pointless. The mixed-medium illustrations are uneven in quality, but quite interesting. Colored-pencil and ink-cartoon drawings are well placed on the page and beautifully blended with cut-paper collage. The final spread has a photograph of Santa and his wife enjoying the three friends' presents. Children will likely be more intrigued with these unusual illustrations than with the confusing tale.- Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA