The City Tree

Books

Dani’s drab days are revived by color and beauty when a tree is planted in the “sometimes dusty, sometimes puddly” hole in the sidewalk in front of her home. Now, instead of waking each morning to the clamorous cacophony of city traffic, Dani greets her day with birdsong from nesting friends outside her window. 

Dani quickly learns that the tree is so much more than just a tree: It’s also a helpful guide to dressing for the weather (“leaves fluttering said breezy today . . . branches bending said bundle up”), a soothing, protective presence against the city’s noise and pollution and a listening ear for Dani’s “stories, wonders, worries” and more. 

Some people don’t seem to appreciate the tree as much as Dani does. She finds signs tacked to its bark and trash dumped around its trunk, and she even sees a dog doing its business beneath its branches! But Dani and a group of kindhearted neighbors work together to care for the tree so that everyone will be able to enjoy it for years to come. 

The City Tree highlights a special relationship that will be instantly recognizable to any child who has their own beloved city tree. Author Shira Boss’ text is lovely and engaging, filled with creative and vivid turns of phrase. Dani’s sidewalk is “a carpet of concrete,” for instance, and when winter comes, the tree’s bare branches “rested like paintbrushes in a cup.” Four pages of illustrated back matter elaborate on the importance of urban trees and how city dwellers can support such trees, providing resources for further investigation. 

Illustrator Lorena Alvarez goes above and beyond to make The City Tree shine, telling her own story right alongside Boss’ prose. She builds a wonderful contrast between the cold, gray hues of Dani’s city street that give way to the slow spread of bright, saturated colors once the tree is planted. Page by page, the windows of the buildings around the tree fill with more people following creative pursuits—bakers, sculptors, musicians, designers, all seemingly inspired by the new burst of life heralded by the tree. Alvarez also incorporates subtle examples of all the ways the neighborhood cares for the tree, from building birdhouses and planting flowers around its base to picking up litter and recycling. 

It can be easy to imagine cities as places disconnected from the natural world, but The City Tree is an excellent reminder that nature can flourish wherever it’s nurtured—even outside your own window. 

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