cover image Maple


Lori Nichols. Penguin/Paulsen, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-16085-1

Debut talent Nichols explores the relationship between a girl and the tree she’s named after, planted by her parents in her honor. It’s less a story than a string of affectionate reminiscences: “And even though Flavia, Millie Jane, Lena, Lily, and Constance were all good names... Maple was the perfect fit.” Maple sings and dances for her tree and offers her coat to it when it loses its leaves. In return, the tree offers shade, “and its leaves would dance just for her.” A new sapling appears along with a new baby sister, Willow, whom Maple is old enough to welcome without jealousy. Nichols draws Maple as a sort of everygirl, with pin-dot eyes, a pert nose, and a curved line for a smile; her tree and its surroundings are similarly generalized. The narrator’s voice, by contrast, has its own distinctive, understated humor: “Then something really surprising happened,” one page reads, as Maple notices her mother’s bulging middle for the first time. An exploration of different kinds of love and different kinds of acceptance. Ages 3–5. Agent: Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Feb.)