________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 22. . . .February 8, 2013


Whose Trees Are These?

Erna Michalow.
Winnipeg, MB: Peanut Butter Press, 2012.
32 pp., hardcover, $17.95.
ISBN 978-0-9865329-7-9.

Subject Heading:
Trees-Juvenile literature.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 2-6.

Review by Lara LeMoal.

* /4



Whose Trees Are These?

"Mine," said the Fire.

"I blaze trees into campfires. I burn the trees for heat. I pop the pine cones for fun.

I scorch the trees so forests will regrow. Mine, mine, mine," crackled the Fire.


Whose Trees Are These? is a new title from Winnipeg's Peanut Butter Press, which is known for producing children's picture books exclusively -- a somewhat rare and welcome characteristic for a publisher -- and this new title marks the twelfth in their list.

internal art     Whose Trees Are These? attempts to merge the style of an information picture book with simple prose. The plot is comprised of an exploration of the question posed by its title: to whom do trees belong? The author explores this question by means of an argument between various personified natural elements (earth, fire, air), each attempting to claim ownership of the trees. Whose Trees are These? adds instructive scientific detail to the fictional premise. This approach to story telling -- the merging of stylistic tone, one part information picture book and one part fictional narrative -- is one I appreciate in theory, but, in this case, it has missed its mark.

      Erna Michalow's water media landscapes are compelling and have a unique personal quality. Her depictions of the natural world are detailed and strong. Some, such as an illustration of birch trees on pages 16 and 17, are especially beautiful. However, the emotional quality of the illustrations does not work well with the "telling" tone of the text, leaving the reader with the impression that the two elements of the picture nook are not in support of each other.

      The text, also by Michalow, is easy to read aloud, but it lacks the momentum needed to engage readers and compel them to read on. This story is without a narrative arc, and so each page comes to look and feel like the previous one. While the soft and meandering rhythm of the text is easy to follow, the underlying didactic aims are transparent, and the result is that little is left to the imagination of the reader.

      The components of Whose Trees Are These? are strong and have great potential. That said, the book as a whole has an unfinished quality, a picture book unsure of its place.

Not Recommended.

Lara LeMoal has a Master of Arts in Children's Literature from the University of British Columbia and currently lives in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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