Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Written and Illustrated by Jason Chin

Ages : 6-10

Amazon.com’s list of top ten picture books of 2009!

Who would have ever thought that a regular ride in the subway could become such a magical journey, transporting you soundlessly, thousands of mile across the coast to the mysterious and enchanting redwood forest of California!!!???!!

That's exactly what happens to a little boy as he chances upon a book about redwoods on his way to the subway and starts reading it, and strange things begin to happen. As he reads that the redwood ancestors lived about 165 million years ago, during the Jurassic period...we see dinosaurs appear outside the train window. When he learns that one tree alone can live for more than 2000 years, which means that the trees alive today first sprouted during the Roman Empire...we see a couple of Romans sitting on either side of him. And once he gets off the subway and heads to the exit, still wrapped up in his book, we see him come out to the breathtaking view of the redwoods forest itself! And from there on the journey intensifies from page to page as facts are woven into the most beautiful and detailed illustrations of this unique landscape.

In the author's own words...

"In 2006, I sat down in a New York City subway train and read about the discovery of the world's tallest tree, Hyperion, in a magazine article by
Richard Preston. I was enthralled by his descriptions of researchers working in the redwood canopy, hundreds of feet above the forest floor. His words transported me out of the loud, smelly, crowded subway car to the redwood forest thousands of miles away. . . "

Things that stand out about this book...

1. That for a change, it is a non-fiction picture book, which can be confused with fiction, and can even be categorised as a memoir thanks to the beginnings it had with the author! :)

2. That the illustrations beautifully blend with the facts and quite literally transport us deep into the realms of the redwoods forest!

3. That the facts come across in such a light manner, such that a young reader will be able to actually relate it to his world. For instance, the trunk of a redwood can be about 29 feet in diameter. Its a number an adult can relate to in wonder, but for a child, it makes better sense to add....That's so wide that a tunnel can be cut in it, big enough for a car to drive through.

4. The subject is something as fascinating and mysterious and redwoods. So many facts about it really make you gasp in wonder....
  • that redwoods not only start from seeds, but also from other redwoods.
  • That they have the ability to live through forest fires, thanks to their extremely thick barks.
  • That in the summer, the redwoods create their own rainfall from the fog that condenses on its needles and sends the water down to the ground, where it feeds not only its own roots, but that of surrounding plants as well.
  • That plants grow on the redwoods and once researchers found a mass of ferns that weighed more than 1600 pounds!
  • That the redwood branch systems are so dense and crisscrossed that researchers have gotten lose while exploring them!
  • That the largest redwood, at 370 feet was called the Stratosphere Giant and is now topped by another at 379 feet called the Hyperion, which is like 6 stories taller than the Statue of Liberty, and what's more...its continues to grow!
In all, by the time we finished this book, me and my son learned quite some things about something we knew so little about. And we made a little resolve to ourselves that we would go and see the redwoods forest with our very own eyes one day. But that is for a day in the future. For now, we are going to go right back between the covers of this book and take the journey all over again....this time with that little girl who found the book lying on a park bench, where the boy had left it behind....See ya!


Meera Sriram said...

Wonderful! I like the fact that it is actually non-fiction bordering on fiction, making it lighter and digestible I suppose. And I am also amazed how truly infinite imagination can be! And equally impressed with how you have spotlighted the features, Tharini.
We fondly love the redwoods here (in fact my daughter's first preschool classroom was called "redwood":)

Praba Ram said...

Lovely, T! can never get enough of your reviews!! :-)

About the book - VERY NEAT fiction/nonfiction. And finding a book in the subway bench, leaving it to someone to read...love it! similar to Flotsam, Red - caldecott books. Will certainly try to find it.

We're tree-huggers - wonderful memories of hugging sequoia and redwoods 6 yrs ago..celebrated K's first birthday at Yosemite! :-)

ranjani.sathish said...

Amazing book and a beautiful review :-). I want to see this book more for myself now, rather than the kids !

Tharini said...

Meera : It is definitely light and so digestible that you'll come back for second and third helpings. :) Hope you get a chance to see the forest, since its in your neck of the woods...so to speak. :)

Praba : K's first birthday at Yosemite sounds just perfect! And oh yes I know you're a tree hugger alright. Will never forget your review of and my subsequent reading of The Giving Tree.

Ranjani & Sathish: It truly is. truly truly. I hope you are able to lay your hands on this book!

Poppins said...

OMG what a fab pick. As it is anything California and I'm a sucker for it :) Sounds like a great book - I'm sure we'll enjoy it (if we can lay our hands on it!)

And the part about being transported while reading the book - that IS why we read books in the first place isn't it?

Choxbox said...

T this really sounds like a book to treasure!

Sheela said...

Not just kids, Tara, *my* eyes glaze over and my brain shuts down with stark cold facts, but, 'That's so wide that a tunnel can be cut in it, big enough for a car to drive through.' that would make me sit up and register!

Must check this book out! This brought back memories of haunting Muir Woods when I lived in the Bay Area, driving the little Hyundai Accent through the tunnel in one of the giant redwoods with y parents... and a stretch of 101 called Avenue of the Giants is awe-inspiring... what a pick! You've gotten me transported now!

Anusha said...

loved your review, Tharini! and it took me to redwoods too, on our dream list for summer '10 :)

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