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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

What Do You See When You Look At A Tree? by Emma Carlisle


Mindful, whimsical, informative and enchanting, Emma Carlisle’s charmingly illustrated book encourages children and adults to take a different look at something most of us see every day but take for granted - trees. Produced in conjunction with London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, it draws a similarity between trees and people. And if that sounds a little far-fetched, it’s not really. Like people, “Trees are all different, special, unique…” and over the page, “…each has its own special name.”


The text asks us to consider whether trees have feelings: “Does it feel joy when the sun shines bright? Is it sad when rain splatters and pours?” - words that could initiate discussion with a child about considering the feelings of others. It touches on what a tree may have seen in its lifetime, the people it has encountered, what might happen to it in the future. Again, like people.


At the end of the book, there is information about how trees talk to each other and create family networks via their root systems. This is followed by a section entitled “How to Be More Like a Tree” with some simple advice to “take our time, look out for one another and look after ourselves, too.”


Reading it to my grandchildren proved an interesting test of its appeal. The nine- and 10-year-olds enjoyed the concept and philosophy of the book and were interested in the facts it conveyed. The four-year-old loved discovering the details in the illustrations and was excited to spot “a Christmas tree” (a pine), while the two-year-old delightedly added “roar” sound effects to pictures of wild animals sheltering in burrows under tree roots! So, something for everyone.


Elegantly presented with a hard cover, gold title lettering and fabric-trimmed spine, this thought-provoking picture book is one to treasure.


Reviewer: Rowena Mara Allen & Unwin



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