If I Were a Tree

By The Horn Book

A group consisting of two adults and two children—perhaps a multiracial family with what appear to be an Asian mother and a Black father—pack up their things and set out on a camping adventure. The children are fascinated by the sights Mother Nature has to offer, stopping to explore in wonder all that they see and using all their senses to do so. Their enjoyment of nature, big spiders included, is palpable. Zimmerman’s text is a set of conditional statements (“If I were a tree…”) that imagines what a tree feels, tastes, smells, hears, and sees—even what a tree might be, know, and love. The text’s consistent rhymes (“I’d feel nests on my bark, bats hiding till dark”) flow smoothly and capture the many details that the children observe—from worms to “minerals in mud” to “the sneeze of a mole.” The book’s final rhymes incorporate lyrical metaphors that could apply easily to the socio-emotional side of human lives: “I’d know branches can bend, and cold spells will end, / That spring will renew, and life carries through.” The illustrations, created via printmaking techniques and digitally assembled, are highly textured, some even appearing to incorporate oversized fingerprints. Lush, lively greens pop off the page. An appended spread provides tips about using “your five senses” to “get to know” trees.