My Big Tree*
Written by Maria Ashworth
Illustrated by Bailey Beougher
34 pages Ages 3—5
“One little blue bird has found the best place to nest. Soon other animals think it’s the ideal place to be, too. The little blue bird isn’t ready to share her space and decides it’s no longer the “best tree to nest in.” She finds a new tree but something is missing. In the end, the little bluebird realizes there is one thing more valuable than nesting in her favorite tree.” [Amazon]
A blue bird finds the perfect tree in which to nest. Soon other animals agree with the blue bird. They too, decide to move into the tree. In no time at all, the “perfect tree to nest in” is no longer perfect for the blue bird. It flies off in search of the perfect tree. In no time, the blue bird nests in a new “best to nest in” tree. All alone, the blue bird decides the new tree isn’t as perfect as it thought. It says, “I am sad in the tree.” The blue bird returns to the original perfect tree, nesting at the top. There, it is among friends.
“Targeted for children up to age 8,”** My Big Tree is about friendship and the importance of relationships, though it seems to be more about counting and possibly learning colors, but this would be inappropriate for the intended age of “up to age 8.” The story begins with the one blue bird, then adds two black bears, three silver bats . . . nine white possums—not opossums—and ten gray mice. Midway through the book, the critters makes a onomatopoeic sound while it hops, hangs, jumps, or other action related to its nature (frogs hop, bees buzz, snakes slither), back down to the one blue bird nesting.
The illustrations look like two-dimensional clip art. The blue bird is identical on each page, occasionally “turning” its head (by flipping the image) to look left or right, and occasionally straight ahead. Whether there are two black bears or ten mice, each animal in a group is identical. The look of My Big Tree is acceptable, but lacks anything visually exciting. I think young children will become bored seeing the same image on each page. Even the new tree blue bird flies off to looks extremely similar to the old tree (the curved branches veer off in slightly different angles). A few of the spreads need better planning.
One character steals the show. The lone dog enters early in the book with a bone in his mouth. Soon he is busy digging a hole. When finished, he buries his bone and then barks at the other animals in the tree. On the last page, one can see the dog’s back half, but the next page is void of illustrations. I hope the dog is okay. For clip art, it became very interesting.
The text in My Big Tree uses two techniques common to children’s writing: onomatopoeia and repetition. Each animal “speaks” in its language and then in English. The animals’ speech consists of onomatopoeic sounds one might expect each animal to make, such as a “buzzing” bee or a “hooting” owl. These sounds also give the reader the opportunity to use different voices, something most kids enjoy with giggles.
Another good feature of a young child’s story is repetition, as it helps the child learn to read. The repetition in My Big Tree tends to become tedious after the midpoint and in subsequent readings. Each animal says, “This big tree is (good or best) to (its action) in.” In the example, whether the tree is “good” or “best” alternates like one might alternate a speakers name with “he” or “she.” Repetition is a good thing, until it is the only thing. The lack of dynamic text weights the book down. Finally, many of the sentences end with a preposition.
“‘Tweet,’ said one blue bird.
‘This big tree is the best.
My big tree is good to nest in.’”
“‘Grr, grr,’ said two black bears.
‘This big tree is the best to sleep in.”
“‘Eek, eek,’ said three silver bats.
‘This big tree is good to hang in.’”
“‘Tick, tick,’ said four red squirrels.
‘This big tree is the best to jump in.’”
To keep the reader returning to your story—or counting, color book—text needs to be exciting, carried, and interesting. Every character speaking the same sentence, and nothing else, becomes tedious.
In addition to counting, young children can learn colors, including the primary colors (red, blue, yellow), two of the three secondary colors (green and orange—purple missing), and brown, silver, gray, white, and black. In the back matter, the author offers a little tidbit about each of the animals featured in My Big Tree. This page is the most interesting page in My Big Tree. Nonfiction might be Ashworth’s genre.
Next Up: Iggy Loo (Spork, 2016) and Tommy James: The Littlest Cowboy in Reckon (Spork, 2017)
MY BIG TREE. Text copyright © 2016 by Maria Ashworth. Illustrations copyright © 2016 by Bailey Beougher. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Spork, Stamford, TX.
*As reported by Vonna Carter (“Happy Book Birthday” 8/16/2016), My Big Tree is a “create-a-scene magnetic playset . . . follow along with the book.” Review book was a PDF; Ashworth, who submitted the book, never mentioned anything about magnetic pieces or option. If interested in the magnetic version, check with publisher or author before purchasing.
**“My Big Tree” is targeted for children up to age 8. Ashworth described the book is a concept picture book that encompasses counting and colors.” (Covering Katy: News of Katy, Texas 8/26/2016)
Find My Big Tree on Goodreads HERE.
Spork is an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing
Reprinted with permission from MY BIG TREE © 2016 by Maria Ashworth, Big Belly Books, Spork, an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing, Illustrations © 2016 by Spork.
Next Book Tour Stop: Double Monkey Business
Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
My Big Tree
Written by Maria Ashworth
Illustrated by Bailey Beougher
Big Belly Books 8/09/2016