Cocca-Leffler, Maryann. The Belonging Tree. Henry Holt and Company, 2020. Unpaged. 978-1-250-30513-8. $18.99. Grades PreK-1.
A community of happy squirrels lives on Forest Lane. The Gray squirrel family, Ma, Pa, and Little Zeke, love their old oak tree home and enjoy eating, working and playing with their squirrel neighbors. Then in summer, some blue jays arrive and their noise disturbs Ma and Pa, but Zeke enjoys their singing. In the fall, a chipmunk family with many babies appears and gets busy gathering acorns. Zeke loves feeding the babies, while his parents are concerned about a nut shortage. All is peaceful through the winter, but in spring some busy beavers move in and start building dams. Ma and Pa fear the beavers will down all the trees, but Zeke is amazed by what they have built. The parents decide to move across the river to get away from these other animals. That night, during a storm, the squirrel family’s new home is destroyed. They are rescued through the efforts of their former animal neighbors and quickly realize that the best neighborhood is one where everyone belongs. The author has created a book that shows the value of community and how it is important to include and accept our neighbors. Lombardi’s colorful drawings were created with watercolor and Adobe Photoshop. The full bleed illustrations are charming and the squirrels are drawn with large expressive eyes. Children will love the illustration of Zeke feeding the young chipmunks with a baby bottle.
THOUGHTS: This story is a wonderful discussion starter about communities and the importance of diversity and tolerance. It is a great read aloud and a worthwhile purchase for all elementary collections.
Potts, Nikki. Habitat Hunter. Ill. Maarten Lenoir, Picture Window Books, 2020. 31 p. $132.24 set of 6. $21.99 ea. Grades PreK-2.
Frog Moves out of the Rain Forest. 978-1-977-11423-5.
Goat Moves out of the Barnyard. 978-1-977-11421-1.
Meerkat Moves out of the Desert. 978-1-977-11419-8. Owl Moves out of the Forest. 978-1-977-11424-2. Penguin Moves out of the Antarctic. 978-1-977-11422-8.
Shark Moves out of the Ocean. 978-1-977-11420-4.
“Meerkats, meerkats everywhere!” (1), and Meerkat is not happy about it. She wants a new home she does not have to share, so she sets out to find her new home. Meerkat tries the mountains, but they’re too quiet. She tries a cave, but it’s too cold and has too many bats. Next she tries a playground; it seems like a great home with all of the tunnels, but the slide is too hot, and the monkey bars are too high. After trying a garden, Meerkat decides her own home is the best home and returns to it.
THOUGHTS: Meerkat Moves out of the Desert is a fun way for young readers to learn about meerkats. Combining both pictures and illustrations, readers learn about various homes for Meerkat while also learning why the new habitat isn’t quite right. In the end, Meerkat’s realization that her habitat is the best not only solidifies basic understanding of a meerkat, but it also teaches readers to appreciate their home and family and that something different is not always best. This title, as with the other titles in this series, also includes a page about the highlighted animal (meerkats) and an “Animal Passport.” This title is also useful for teaching comparing and contrasting because of the various homes Meerkat considers.
In this cozy story, a young girl takes a walk through the woods on a late autumn evening. Accompanied by her dog and a notebook, the girl says goodnight to the animals she sees and encourages them to settle into their sleeping place. Each two page spread features a different forest animal. The rhyming text is written in an AA-BB sequence and describes the animal’s behavior in just a few words, like “Berry Picker” and “Honey Trickster” for the bear. Before this verse, the author includes a short phrase that begins with “Come Home,” and is followed by a two word description of the animal. For example, Jameson calls the squirrel “Bushy Tail” and the woodpecker “Strong Beak” instead of using their common names. As the night draws in, snow flurries begin to fall and the pair returns home to their cabin, where it is now the girl’s turn to go to bed. Boutavant’s charming illustrations capture the atmosphere of the season, and the reader can almost feel the chilly night wind just like the fox. On the last two pages, the illustrator displays the girl’s own drawings from her notebook, depicting the wildlife that she observed.
THOUGHTS: With its comforting text and cadence, this book makes for a wonderful bedtime story, which will surely help children settle down to sleep. It is also a good choice for fall or early winter storytimes. To make it more interactive, the librarian could ask students to guess the type of animal just by listening to the words and afterwards show the pictures. Highly recommended for all elementary collections.