Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Oliver's Tree by Kit Chase

At first glance, this is just a cute little book about animal friends playing in the forest. Adorable and will probably circulate quite well, but nothing particularly special. However, think about it a little from an adult perspective, and you'll see how lovely this little book is and how it gently teaches lessons without hammering kids over the head with them.

Oliver, Lulu, and Charlie love to play outside. Lulu and Charlie especially like to climb trees, specifically when they're playing hide and seek. But Oliver is a bit too big to climb. They try to find a tree they can share together, but after trying out many different trees Oliver gives up and leaves. But his friends don't give up! With a little hard work they find a way they can all enjoy the trees and play together.

Chase's art is sweet without being too saccharine. Her rosy-cheeked little animals frolic happily in a forest with mushrooms, a variety of trees, flowers, and swirling background patterns of ferns. Even the empty spaces of the backgrounds are a soft, beige hue. The illustrations are sometimes full-page spreads, sometimes little cameos of the friends trying out different trees or hiding places.

So, what did I love so much about this? It shows kids including a friend who's a little different. They have to change the way they play, but they all find something they can enjoy together. It also shows children enjoying natural, outside play as well. There are a lot of picture books out there that include lessons on diversity, tolerance, etc. but this is one of the best ones I've seen so far that portrays children naturally playing together and making accommodations for a friend.

Verdict: Buy it for the cute and it will change the way kids play without them even noticing. Recommended.

ISBN: 9780399257001; Published 2014 by G. P. Putnam's Songs/Penguin Group; Borrowed from another library in my consortium; Purchased for the library

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