cover image Someday a Tree

Someday a Tree

Eve Bunting. Clarion Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-395-61309-2

Nostalgia and timeliness merge seamlessly in this uncommonly evocative picture book. A sprawling oak tree grows in the field next to Alice's house, and it holds many memories for her family. Her mother reminisces about the first picnic she and Alice's father shared underneath it, and about Alice's christening on the very same spot. When the grass around the tree begins to turn yellow, and the branches begin to drop leaves in springtime, a tree doctor surmises that someone has dumped chemicals by its roots. Alice and her parents, as well as their neighbors, try desperately but vainly to save the poisoned tree. Finally, when its branches are bare, Alice plants acorns she had once gathered from the then-healthy tree, telling her dog that if even one of them grows, another tree will sprout up ``someday.'' While filling her cogent tale with poignant details (neighbors bring food and get-well cards; one knits a scarf to tie around the trunk of the ailing oak), Bunting ( The Valentine Bears ) never allows it to become sentimental or didactic. The story's emotional impact--and environmental message--are movingly reinforced by Himler's delicate paintings, which deftly portray the robust oak's pathetic deterioration into a rickety skeleton of a tree. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)