Before Mr. Tate's class plants trees behind the school, he challenges the young students to hear the big oak tree tell its story. This
Tree Counts is an early reader book that recounts their exciting tale of discovery. The students weave the tree's yarn, and in the process they at least touch upon the subjects of reading, poetry, science, and math.
As far as a reading level, the book is aimed at grades K-2, with some challenging words, and it would make a great read-aloud book for all ages. One of the students in the book recites a simple made-up poem about a tree house that could fit at the top of the tree. The kids count to ten as they discover who lives in the old tree and as they plant the new trees. Nature study, the main theme of the book, shows that science is fun! The students in the book evidence keen observation skills, thus offering another topic for parents to discuss or act upon. For instance, you could say, "Hey, kids, let's go see what we can learn from our apple tree."
The illustrations by Sarah Snow are explained as produced "by hand and digitally, with found papers, acrylics, and watercolors." The results are wonderfully colorful, happy, and a significant part of the book's success. The vivid scenes are reminiscent of Americana folk art, and the multicultural faces are cheerful, inquisitive, and friendly.
Pros: This book is delightful from cover to cover. I have read it over and over with my 7-year-old, who seems equally charmed with it. One of my favorite parts is the portrayal of the teacher--he is fun, wears boots, rolls up his sleeves on their outing, and knows how to encourage his class. Positive male role models are often hard to find in print.
Cons: This book met my expectations, exceeding them actually. Perhaps the only thing I initially questioned was the use of bigger words in what otherwise would have been a simple book for my son to read. However, in retrospect, it was good practice at reading contextually, and certainly the repetition has improved his ability to read the harder words.
It's too easy to fill our bookshelves with books that really don't have staying power. If your kids are going to read something over and over, or if you're going to read it to them, it should be worthy of the space and the money. Otherwise, you can just borrow it from the library. That said, I highly recommend this book to all families with younger children.