This evocation of the African baobab tree works hard to be both poetic and informational and it succeeds at neither. The tree is straightforwardly described but also personified as having a "huge rounded belly," with rain causing "-dark-stained wrinkles/on knuckles and knees," and toes pointing to the moon. Each sentence begins with "This is the tree-," which gradually wears on readers, but the often-dramatic watercolor illustrations, lush with detail, reward viewers and extend the text. The book notes various uses animals and humans make of the shade, bark, blossoms, and fruit but readers are left to wonder why the elephant gores the trunk and what the tribespeople are doing with the bark they cut. The text doesn't explain, and the picture shows two men watching insects pour out from under the cut. More information is presented on a double-page spread at the end. Barbara Bash's beautiful, informative Tree of Life (Little, Brown, 1989; o.p.) is for slightly older readers. Like Lynne Cherry's The Great Kapok Tree (Harcourt, l990) and Brenda Guiberson's Cactus Hotel (Holt, l991), Moss's title does show how one species supports an ecosystem of interrelated animals and is an important part of the larger terrain.-Susan Hepler, Burgundy Farm Country Day School, Alexandria, VA
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