cover image A Grand Old Tree

A Grand Old Tree

Mary Newell DePalma, Author, Mary Newell DePalma, Illustrator . Scholastic/ Levine $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-439-62334-6

With shades of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree , yet devoid of human interference, DePalma's (My Chair ) cycle-of-life tale will draw readers in with its breezy, whimsical illustrations and straightforward text. The chartreuse and kelly green tree at the center of the story moves through the seasons, bearing small red fruit and creating new life (e.g., "She had many children. They changed the landscape for miles around"). The large-canopied matron also supports a host of birds, squirrels and ladybugs, whose wide-eyed expressions add a comical touch that will likely enhance the book's appeal to the younger set. In one spread, red and blue-spotted ladybugs surf, slide and hang glide using the tree's fuchsia and orange falling leaves. The stylized shapes of the watercolor and torn-paper art emanate a carefree, childlike feel, while a gentle but matter-of-fact narrative marches the tale forward. The tree comes to her end in a poignant couple of spreads. "At last the grand old tree was very, very old. Her branches no longer swayed and danced.... Finally she fell, and snow gently covered her." DePalma skillfully keeps the bleakness at bay by recounting what the dead tree continues to provide (shelter, enriched soil) and reminding readers that the tree's legacy lives on in her descendants. Older readers may recognize and appreciate the metaphor for all life. Ages 4-8. (Nov.)