Monday, 3 May 2021

The Gentle Genius of Trees

The Gentle Genius of Trees by Phillip Bunting (Omnibus) ISBN 978-1-76097-517-3 HB RRP $19.99

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

The Gentle Genius of Trees is a beautifully presented non-fiction book about trees and humans as well. As expected with Phillip Bunting books, humour plays an important part, highlighted by the fact that all the tree illustrations have eyes. While explaining uses for trees, the way trees grow and photosynthesis, the crux of the book is the way trees work together. In describing the way trees share nutrients through their root systems, protect the young and are incredibly resilient, it is clear that humans could learn quite a bit from this ‘wood-wide web’.

On the title page the tree (with eyes) says ‘If you’re not into trees or highly tenuous jokes, I wood leaf now’, starting things off with a laugh. Scientific explanations are lightened with jokes all through, for instance when there is a ‘very serious’ disclaimer at the bottom of the page stating ‘Artists’ impression only. Glucose does not really resemble fairy floss’. The illustrations are clear, in natural tones, on matt paper. Impressive is the double spread of different shaped leaves (with eyes) which show the marvellous diversity of plant life, where each leaf has a different character, even though they are all green.

Root systems are drawn to look like lungs, an upside-down brain, and a train map, all showing the interconnectedness of nature and how it relates to us. As it says, ‘You see what is good for the forest is good for the tree. And what is good for the tree is good for you and me.’

Phillip Bunting has now written and illustrated many books including the imaginative non-fiction titles Give Me Some Space and Who am I? His latest book is recommended for children ages four and over but could be useful for students all through primary school.

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