Before We Stood Tall

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A book review of Before We Stood Tall: From Small Seed to Mighty Tree by Jessica Kulekjan and Madeleine Kloepper

A book review of Before We Stood Tall: From Small Seed to Mighty Tree by Jessica Kulekjan and Madeleine Kloepper

Stars: ***

Kids Can Press (2021)
Picture Book>Trees
32 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.

Summary: Expressive text and art tell the story of the life cycle of trees as it has never been told before — in reverse.

Here’s a lyrical depiction of the life cycle of trees, told one step at a time, based on newly researched information. The steps are described in simple but evocative text, each starting with “Before . . .” for a rhythmic telling. For example, “Before we stood tall, we clothed ourselves in bark and crowned ourselves in leaves, waving eagerly at the sun.” Particular attention is paid throughout to what’s happening underground and how that links all life in the forest. Beginning with mature giants, “mighty in the kingdom of trees,” and ending with the promise of new life on the branches that are “hoping to be mighty in the kingdom of trees,” it’s a beautiful and loving celebration of the circle of life.

Jessica Kulekjian’s skill at seamlessly blending nonfiction information with a poetic narrative sets this informational picture book apart. She also uniquely incorporates intriguing new research on how trees communicate with each other using an underground network of roots and fungus that connects the forest and helps the trees to thrive. Madeline Kloepper’s rich artwork with its deep earth tone palette brings the forest and all its inhabitants alive on the page. The material has been vetted by several scientists, including experts on trees, insects and mushrooms. Supported by well-researched backmatter, the book has strong curriculum links to early elementary earth and life science topics, including plants, ecosystems and soil.

Before We Stood Tall

First a note about the book. It took us a second read to understand the book because I didn’t read the summary before I read the book. If you read the summary you will see that the book is told in reverse. I didn’t get that at first. On the second read through it was much better.

The illustrations are beautiful and it’s a good book if your teaching your children about trees. The story follows the trees from a mighty adult backwards as it gets smaller and smaller and smaller. Eventually it’s a sapling and then a shoot and then a seed.

At the back of the book is an Author’s Note that explains more about trees. You can skip this for younger readers or include it for more learning. It was very interesting, even to me.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.