Like a Tree by Rossana Bossù

Like a Tree by Rossana Bossù. SchifferKids, c2016, 2021. 9780764362224

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

Format: Hardcover picture book

What did you like about the book?  This is a very attractive book, with delicate, sophisticated artwork done with a limited color palette, accomplished fine lines, and strong brushstrokes. Bossù uses deep reds, turquoise, black, and white with a delicate hand, showing readers trees and a forest and some of the creatures and flora one might find there. The book opens and should be read vertically, with the tree stretching from top to bottom. Each two-page spread features a statement in a large font (“I dream”, “I play”, “I listen”, “I am afraid”, etc.) and then smaller pictures with items that are supposed to relate to the sentence. The smaller sketches are matched with a sentence of explanatory text. For example, “I am afraid” shows us birch trunks with knotholes resembling scary eyes, along with sketches of a wolf and an owl, plus a line about each animal’s vision. The last page shows a tree above with roots below and opine that the thinnest part of the roots resemble the neurons of the nervous system.

Anything you didn’t like about it? Despite the beauty of the illustrations, I couldn’t figure out what the point of this book was. Some of the juxtapositions made no sense. “I laugh” featured an ant and a millipede. “I dream” showed a variety of mushrooms, including ones that were poisonous and also imagined the fungi growing in a fanciful tree shape. Who is afraid of a wolf or an owl? To present them as either fearsome or fearful without explanation made no sense to me. The presentation was odd enough to make me unsure of the factual accuracy of the text and there’s no information about Bossù’s scientific background. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Some children may enjoy looking at the lovely paintings, but the information side of the book leaves much to be desired. The book was originally published in Italian, so possibly it would be more successful in its original language.

Who should buy this book? 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: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: January 25, 2022

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