Tap the Magic Tree

illus. by author. 40p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Sept. 2013. Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-06-227445-8. LC 2013001035.
PreS-K—The conceit of this clever picture book is that the changing seasons occur as if by magic. Readers are shown a bare brown tree and are implored to, "Tap it once. Turn the page to see." As they do, green leaves appear. Next, they are told to "Rub the tree to make it warm." That results in pale pink buds, which then form beautiful blossoms and a jiggle makes them fall to the ground. Darker leaves mingle with robust red apples, and then leaves turn color, drift away, and snow falls all around. Finally, the tree finds a new purpose as a home for a baby bird. Each change receives its own spread, and a page turn reveals another alteration to the tree's appearance. A few words on each spread keep the emphasis on readers' perceived control over the climate; a call to participation encourages audience involvement. "Pat the leaves-be gentle, please. Aha! Now blow a whooshing breeze." Spare backgrounds maintain the focus on the tree; its thick, supportive trunk remains the solid recurring note in each stark scene. Textured collages add immediacy to each spread. A natural rhythm is maintained through rolling rhymes. The subtle shifts of the seasons capture a tree that is simply a treasure to behold.—Meg Smith, Cumberland County Public Library, Fayetteville, NC
The book begins with a "bare brown tree," its outstretched branches and twisting trunk shown against a crisp white page. In order to see the tree's "magic," the text instructs readers or listeners to "tap it once"; and with a page turn the tree now has one bright green leaf. Four more taps and another page turn result in four more green leaves. As the book goes on, children can rub the tree, tap new pink buds, and even blow the tree a kiss; the pink buds turn to blossoms, darker green leaves appear, apples grow. The story moves through the seasons, urging patience in wintertime when the bare branches are covered in pale blue snow. Finally it is back to spring, concluding with the appearance of a birds' nest and some bright new leaves: "It begins again." Perhaps inspired by the very popular Press Here (rev. 7/11), this is winsome in its own right and stylishly designed. The story has a satisfying arc that encourages children to closely observe the seemingly magical way real trees change throughout the year. susan dove lempke

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