Maple loves her name. It’s a perfect fit for her friendship with her favorite tree. Maple sings and sways for her tree and watches its leaves dance for her in return. As Maple grows and experiences all four seasons, so does her tree. In the fall, she gives the tree a jacket to ward off the autumn chill, and in the winter she introduces it to a snowman friend . . . even if the friendship doesn’t last beyond the spring thaw.
But one day her parents have a surprise for Maple: They have a new baby. Will the kindness that Maple has learned in taking care of her tree help make her a good big sister? And how will Maple balance having two loves in her life, one human and one arboreal?
First-time picture book author and illustrator Lori Nichols combines pencil drawings, digital coloration and lots of white space to tell Maple’s story, whose pace is slowed down or sped up through alternating full-page illustrations, double-page spreads and multiple small illustrations. Details shown in the pictures but not mentioned in the words, including a curious rabbit and a trio of animal toys, make excellent discoveries for young listeners, although some pictorial cues might require outside explanations (like a reference to Maple “when she was still a whisper” accompanying a picture of her pregnant mother). This spare, gently humorous story will please any child who’s ever befriended a new sibling . . . or found a soul mate in a tree.
Jill Ratzan reviews for School Library Journal and works as a school librarian at a small independent school in New Jersey.