by Kelly Carey
Few trees in New England put on a better fall foliage show than the maple tree, and few authors have put together a better picture book debut than Lori Nichols with Maple. In our increasingly eco-conscious world, here is a loving picture book that creates a natural but powerful link between a little girl and a maple tree.
Maple’s tree is planted “when she is still a whisper”. Can you guess what kind of tree Maple’s parents plant?
While Shel Silverstein’s boy and the tree in The Giving Tree had a relationship that was sadly thought provoking, Nichols creates a connection between Maple and her tree that is mutually giving and totally joyous. Along with three adorably expressive little stuffed animals, Maple and her tree grow and play together through the wonderfully illustrated changing seasons. When a new baby arrives, Maple depends on her tree to be the perfect big sister.
The relationship between Maple, her tree and her new baby sister is as sweet and charming as the bond Nichols creates between her story and her reader. If Nichol’s illustrations were music they would be smooth jazz, and her text creates huggable moments for her adult reader and child listener.
I would like very much to introduce Maple to Kevin Henke’s Chrysanthemum – two free spirited little ladies, with nature inspired names, who will make you giggle.
In just under 300 words, Nichols creates a character, weaves a complete story arc, builds tension and zings us with an adorable wink at the end. Picture book word counts are shrinking, but Nichols proves that her story can still offer every element needed for success. She has a bit of an advantage because she uses her phenomenal illustrations to convey character, meaning and message. Any author would be fortunate to have Nichols’ drawings to expand on their text.
One can always dream, perhaps under the dancing leaves of a maple tree?
Nichols released a follow up book titled Maple & Willow Together on November 4!
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