Reviewed by Jeanne White
Author and illustrator Lynne Cherry’s book The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest (Gulliver Green, 1990) focuses on South America’s Amazon rainforest. Cherry visited the rainforest to create sketches and to develop her story. The inside covers of the book include a world map depicting the current and original extent of the rainforest regions. The first page explains the complex layers of the rainforest and how the kapok tree stands among the “community of animals.” The book is dedicated to Chico Mendes, the murdered Brazilian union and environmental activist “who gave his life in order to preserve a part of the rainforest.” My students were always captivated with the story, about a man who is ordered to chop down a kapok tree but dozes off while resting from the hard labor. Each creature, from a tiny insect to a mighty jaguar, explains the importance of the tree, including holding the soil in place during heavy rains, providing food and shelter, and producing oxygen.
Cherry includes the theme of the book toward the end when the anteater whispers to the man, “What happens tomorrow depends upon what you do today.” The causes of deforestation are not provided, but students could research this as well as learn about the products in their own lives that originated in tropical rainforests. Students can write letters of support and raise funds for organizations working to prevent deforestation. Continue reading.
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2000
Genres: Activism, Environment
Review Source: Rethinking Schools
Buy at Powell's Books
Publisher's Synopsis: The author and artist Lynne Cherry journeyed deep into the rain forests of Brazil to write and illustrate her gorgeous picture bookThe Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest (1990). One day, a man exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forest's residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how "all living things depend on one another" . . . and it works. Cherry's lovingly rendered colored pencil and watercolor drawings of all the "wondrous and rare animals" evoke the lush rain forests, as well as stunning world maps bordered by tree porcupines, emerald tree boas, and dozens more fascinating creatures.
Awards: IRA Teacher's Choice (1991), ABA's Pick of the Lists, Reading Rainbow Review Book, NSTA-CBC Outstanding Trade Book for Children