Expiration Day: William Campbell Powell
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Secrets of the Apple Tree: Carron Brown & Alyssa Nassner

Book: Secrets of the Apple Tree: A Shine-A-Light Book
Authors: Carron Brown & Alyssa Nassner
Pages: 36
Age Range: 4-8

Secrets of the Apple Tree is an informational text that uses the "Shine-A-Light" technology to make learning fun for kids. It starts out by showing an apple tree in the summer. When you shine a light behind the page (or hold it up to the light), you can see the image of the apple tree in winter, with bare branches. On the other side of the page, this inside view is shown in black and white, with some explanatory text. This pattern continues throughout the book, as the reader see mushrooms growing on a branch, a squirrel nesting inside the tree, a bug caught in a spider web, etc. 

I think that the gimmick of shining a light to see through the page will please preschoolers. My daughter was charmed by this, certainly, though she got a bit bored as the facts continued to mount from page to page. The text is designed for interactive reading with kids. Like this:

"Many animals live
around the tree.

Can you see who
the bird is about
to grab?"

(on the next page)

"Slithering, wriggling worms push
through the soil around the roots.

A tree's roots grow long and deep.
The roots soak up water from rain,
which helps to keep the tree alive." 

Every page has a question for kids to answer by shining a light on the page. At the end there's a little glossary of sorts, with more information about the creatures found in and around the tree. The authors encourage further exploration with:

"There's more...

When you find a tree, look all around it and see who you can find.
Remember to look up as well as down." 

The see-through illustrations (on the right-hand side of each page spread) are in color, using a palette of woodsy greens, browns, and grays. The left-facing pages are silhouettes, white images against black backgrounds. While neither style is incredibly detailed, the overall impression is pleasing, and the whimsy of the see-through illustrations works well. 

Secrets of the Apple Tree does a nice job of encouraging kids to pay attention to nature, to look closely, and see what hidden life they can find. And it's fun, too. I think it would make a nice addition to a classroom library for first or second graders, particularly in apple tree country. Recommended!

Publisher: Kane Miller Book Publishers 
Publication Date: January 1, 2014 (first American edition)
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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