The Dancing Trees by Masiana Kelly, illustrated by Michelle Simpson

The Dancing Trees by Masiana Kelly, illustrated by Michelle Simpson. Inhabit Media Inc., 2021. 9781772273694

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre:  Folklore/picture book

What did you like about the book? Thomas accepts a dare to spend a night alone in the forest, after his friends tire of his bragging about all his supposed accomplishments catching fish, skinning moose alone, etc. He sets off with the supplies he has gathered, idly peeling bark off trees and discarding wrappers and other trash along the way. While he sleeps, the trees dance around to change Thomas’ path, displeased that he had disrespected the earth. The next morning, he cannot find a path. After a few nights of being lost and hungry, Thomas changes his tune. He remembers his grandmother’s stories and forages for food. He thinks, “I can do better than this,” and cleans up his litter. The trees hear his regrets and apology, and resume their original places. Thomas returns home and treats the land with respect for ever after.

The vibrant digital art depicts the forest nicely, with deep earth tones. I like the concept of portraying kids from Canada’s Northwest Territories as caring about nature and the stories about their elders. Language is more dense than some picture books, but the suspense of Thomas’s solo camping venture will keep listeners attentive.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The drama resolves too quickly, with Thomas’s revelation very abrupt. More about his grandmother’s stories would have helped ease the transition. And readers will wonder how he knows about the dancing trees if he was asleep.

To whom would you recommend this book?  For ages 5-8, especially for readers seeking stories about indigenous peoples.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: December 10, 2021

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