Review of Poetree

by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds; illus. by Shahrzad Maydani
Primary    Dial    32 pp.    g
3/19    978-0-399-53912-1    $17.99

To celebrate the end of winter, young poetry lover Sylvia writes a poem about spring and ties it to a birch tree in the park. The next day her poem is gone; in its place is another that Sylvia believes the tree wrote back to her. Sylvia — a shy girl whose best friend is her dog and who gets teased at school by a classmate, Walt — imagines what she can do with “her new leafy friend.” When Walt shows up at the park claiming the tree has been writing poems to him, the children discover that they’ve been writing to each other. With an apology (“I’m sorry I was mean at school”) from Walt — who turns out to be a budding poet and kindred “friend of the tree” — the children realize all that they have in common. The illustrations in graphite pencil and watercolor balance white space with pastel yellows, pinks, and greens and provide subtle narrative foreshadowing. Shapes, shadows, and perspective are thoughtfully employed; in one spread the tree appears as shadow only (a pink one at that), while in another Sylvia looks up at its towering branches. In a visually striking departure from the book’s established color palette, the center spread features a dark, graphite background with cursive words in white flowing around the tree branches. This gentle book offers solace to anyone who has felt lonely and discovered comfort in writing or in the natural world.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam
Julie Hakim Azzam teaches in the English department at the University of Pittsburgh. While her academic specialization is on literature from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, she has a passion for children’s literature and has been interviewing children’s authors for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for many years.

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