A young girl and an old tree learn from each other how to find their purpose and foster healing in the world.
SCBWI Golden Kite Award Finalist for Best Picture Book Text
BolognaRagazzi Award Amazing Bookshelf Top 100
A tree stump on an urban playground and a girl new to the neighborhood forge a bond with their life stories. This is one of those rare picture books that demands equal attention to lyrical text and outstanding art (always in double-page spreads) to work its magic. Before the text begins, readers are treated to a rainbow of tree rings across the pages. The next spread’s collage art shows a run-down urban setting, including chain-link fencing, tired playground equipment, tall brick buildings (painted with cheery graffiti that brighten the scene)—and a thick stump, introduced by a single line of text. The page turn reveals an entirely different mood: An enormous apple tree spreads across the pages, full of fruit, leaves, and active people. The text explains that this was the stump’s former life. The following pages lead readers from the tree’s demise to the unnoticed girl on the playground who spies the stump, whispers to it, and traces its rings. With her fingertip, she draws her own story upon the stump, from idyllic childhood to scenes of the girl and other people (many are brown-skinned; some women are in headscarves) leaving their homes and then making a dangerous sea voyage. Short but powerful phrases with extensive, carefully contextualized vocabulary reveal the girl’s emotions as she draws. The final double-page spread’s art relieves the sweet melancholia of the penultimate one.Lovely—a perfect segue into discussions about loneliness, empathy, refugees, and more. (Picture book. 6-10)
–Kirkus (Starred Review), 02/01/2021
To most of the children in the playground, the tree stump was just that — an old, dead stump. It had once been a “tall tree with apples to eat, branches to swing from and a trunk to climb.” But no one gives it a second glance until a young girl comes by. As she rests on the stump, she begins to imagine the vibrant life the tree once had. “I see you,” she whispers. And under the little girl’s attention, it turns out the stump isn’t dead at all.Alexandria Giardino’s story celebrates the importance of friendship and of recognizing the overlooked. Anna and Elena Balbusso’s illustrations are lively, but tinged with sepia, as if from long ago.
–Auburn Citizen, 02/18/2021
To most of the children in the playground, the tree stump was just that — an old, dead stump. It had once been a "tall tree with apples to eat, branches to swing from and a trunk to climb." But no one gives it a second glance until a young girl comes by. As she rests on the stump, she begins to imagine the vibrant life the tree once had. "I see you," she whispers. And under the little girl's attention, it turns out the stump isn't dead at all. Alexandria Giardino's story celebrates the importance of friendship and of recognizing the overlooked. Anna and Elena Balbusso's illustrations are lively, but tinged with sepia, as if from long ago.
–Laurie Hertzel, Star Tribune, 02/20/2021
A young girl and an old tree come together to grieve for the past and turn toward the future in Me + Tree. Collage-like illustrations, swirled with textures resembling wood grain, depict a story of desperate refugees forced to abandon their homes for a tempest-tossed boat. Throughout her story, the girl emphasizes the wood that built her home and formed the boat that brought her to safety, giving the old stump a renewed sense of purpose and exemplifying the endurance of hope.
–DANIELLE BALLANTYNE, Foreword Reviews, 03/02/2021