cover image Old ELM Speaks: Tree Poems

Old ELM Speaks: Tree Poems

Kristine O'Connell George. Clarion Books, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-395-87611-4

George and Kiesler (The Great Frog Race and Other Poems) team up for another close look at the natural world with poetry that invites readers to meditate on trees. This time the visual delights described in George's poems slightly outshine the illustrations. The best of Kiesler's oil paintings are breathtaking: a trio of doves tucking their heads underwing in the starlight, browning pumpkin vines in the foreground of a pastoral scene, the moon snagged by a branch in the book's title poem. Often, however, the paintings--particularly those of children--seem to be frozen in time, lacking the energy and vitality of the images in the poetry. George plays nimbly with language and form. Her invented words in ""Tree Traffic"" seem simultaneously strange and familiar: squirrels are ""commuters... rippling up and down,/ tails unfurled./ The treeway is/ heavily squirreled."" George also surprises readers with creative rhyme schemes, such as that of ""Cooperation,"" in which two horses, sharing the shade of one tree, stand ""muzzle to rump/ rump to muzzle/ like a jigsaw puzzle."" Especially elegant is George's description of a spring tree bud, ""a tiny velveteen satchel,/ the color of pale cream"" inside of which readers can find ""one rolled and folded/ neatly packed/ leaf."" Dedicated to ""the saplings,"" this leaf-filled collection would make just the right gift for nature lovers. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)