Dr. Sam Lloyd is the right person to review this book for, not only is she a fabulous neighbor (oh, the baked goods, the chatter, and the gin), but her garden is a wonderful riot of native plants, chooks, lavender hedges and trees. In fact, they are a family of lovers of nature and all things related to science, which is why this book went through the gate of our back fences in a certain hurry. You can see all of Sam’s other reviews by clicking on the tag with her name. Thanks Sam!
Title: The Gentle Genie of the Trees
Critical: Dr Sam Lloyd
Author / Illustrator: philip bunting
Editor: Scholastic (2021)
Age range: 3 – 10
Topics: Trees, biology, photosynthesis, interconnection, fungi, biodiversity.
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‘The gentle genie of the trees’
by Philip Bunting
How can a Philip Bunting book be anything but fun, informative, and full of bold and engaging illustrations? The gentle genie of the trees. it is all those things. By following the ecological and philosophical theme of some of his other books (for example, ‘The wonderful wisdom of ants’ – My review here), The gentle genie of the trees. takes us on a journey through the role and value of trees, using the resilience and interconnectedness of trees as a metaphor for human strength and community.
making science fun
I like how Philip describes the relationship of trees to sunlight, how trees work together to protect themselves, and how a tree uses its environment to its advantage. I especially love the inclusion of the ‘forgotten kingdom‘, fungi, and the invaluable role it plays in the health of trees (and, in general, of the entire planet).
In keeping with this theme, the poor little mushrooms have to wait until page 13 to get any recognition! But it’s worth the wait, with illustrations and text that articulate the importance of fungi.
As with so many Philip Bunting books, humor flows throughout the book. My favorite in this book is how glucose (a product of photosynthesis) is presented as fairy floss, along with self-deprecating disclaimers. My kids think it’s funny that all trees have eyes, and we all love terrible tree jokes!
Urban environments vs. unbroken tree cover
While the book provides many examples of how we as humans thrive with trees, it doesn’t go into detail about how trees provide shelter, food, and other resources for our animal friends (although this is implied in the illustrations and text). . . For more information on the values of trees as homes for wildlife, particularly hollow trees, visit my review of Abbie Mitchell’s ‘A hole is a home’.
It is so easy to take trees for granted. Many of us live in areas where there are many trees around us, so we could be forgiven for thinking that those trees represent ‘nature’ and adequately support our biodiversity. While urban environments are very important in supporting those creatures that can tolerate, or even thrive, on our disruption (think magpies, opossums, and litter chickens), many other organisms need uninterrupted tree cover or vegetation to truly sustain and thrive. survive, and we, in turn, need these ecosystems if we want to survive.
The term ‘death by a thousand cuts’ is often used to describe the gradual loss of important trees in urban and peri-urban landscapes, so I always appreciate people taking the time to love and conserve their trees.
Of course, the perfect place to read this book is next to (or sitting on) your favorite tree, park, or bush. The gentle genie of the trees. is essential reading for all the little people (or trees) in your life, and according to his many other entertaining books, it’s worth reading for everyone. all the world – especially those who think they are too old for picture books, or perhaps need a reminder of the gentle genius of trees.
Resources and further reading:
brains on! Plant Podcasts:
As with many of my reviews, I highly recommend subscribing to the brains on! podcast, dedicated to engaging, informative and hilarious science podcasts for kids, brains on! has several episodes in the trees, including:
Dr Samantha Lloyd is an ecologist and environmental steward with a passion for the Australian bush, children’s literature, dance, music and baking.
Having graduated from the University of Wollongong with a Bachelor of Science (Biology), First Class Honors in 1998 and a PhD (pollination ecology) in 2006, Sam has worked as an environmental manager for the regional body SEQ NRM; as an entomologist for the Australian and New Zealand Fire Ant Control Programs; and as Coordinator of the Moreton Bay Oil Spill Environmental Restoration Program.
Sam’s long-standing day job is as Manager of the Queensland Fire and Biodiversity Consortium, with ecology and bushfire awareness being another of his passions.