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The Tree That Bear Climbed

Why does the chicken cross the road? Why does the bear climb the tree? Predictions might be a fun way to start this book the first time it’s read. Beginning readers can handle the vocabulary but non-readers will enjoy the rhyme. The Tree That Bear Climbed targets 3 to 8 year olds. Parents need to be prepared for requests for multiple reads of this charming book.

Everyone knows about the house that Jack built, but this is The Tree That Bear Climbed. What makes this tree so fascinating to bear? Starting with the roots that anchor the tree, this chain of events story in cumulative verse explores many different things that help a tree stand tall. It also lends itself to further discussion with fun repetition and detailed picture clues, stimulating a child’s curiosity. Why does the bear climb the tree and what happens when he arrives at his goal?

-School Library Journal, July 2012
"Gentle, lightly colored spreads depict the tree from the ground up, providing a higher and higher perspective as branches reach out to the sky. Phrases naturally build with a growing intensity as more elements come into view. “These are the branches/that stretch from the trunk/that stands in the rain/that waters the soil/that feeds the roots/that anchor the tree/the bear climbed.” The focus remains on the tree at all times; soil, placed in someone’s hands without a face in view, showcases the sturdy trunk in the background. As bees collect the pollen from the flower blossoms, the encroaching bear sticks out his tongue for a delightful slurp; the accompanying spread shows the animal (now small in stature on all fours) as he scurries away from the swarming insects."

Kirkus Reviews
"Beginning with the roots, Berkes introduces one part of the tree or its environment at a time: soil, rain, trunk, branches, leaves, sun, blossoms and pollen. Each new addition to the cumulative "House That Jack Built" rhyme provides a little information: “This is the rain / that waters the soil / that feeds the roots / that anchor the tree / that bear climbed.” This last line (and the book’s title) may seem odd to children who are reading all about the tree’s needs, but once the bees and their hive and their honey enter the poem, it is not hard to guess how the bear gets involved, nor what will happen to him when he does. Two spreads of backmatter extend the learning, with a huge treasure trove of additional educational materials posted on the publisher’s website. Two pages teach readers about the basic needs of plants and the interaction between plants and animals. Two pages of activities challenge children to match a tree’s parts to their descriptions and conduct some experiments with plants. Rietz’s detailed artwork uses natural colors to great effect—readers will almost smell the blossoms on the tree and hear the buzzing of the bees with their furry bodies and transparent wings."

Epinions-June 2012
Marianne Berkes’ book, The Tree That Bear Climbed, opens with the “roots that anchor the tree that bear climbed” and continues with “this is the soil that feeds the roots that anchor the tree that bear climbed.” This cumulative rhyme introduces young readers to the parts of the tree and their functions.

The trunk stands in the rain, branches stretch from the trunk, and leaves form from those branches. Outside influences include rain, sun and eventually bees and a hive. It doesn’t take long to realize why this is a tree that the bear climbed. Not only does this teach but it encourages laughter. Children sensitive to bees might become so involved in the story that they’ll begin to worry about the bear. The final page is funny.

Kathleen Rietz has illustrated numerous books including Dogs Get Cancer Too. Her realistic illustrations demonstrate her own passions for nature. The bark is far more textured than that of many trees in children’s books. The lumpy soil that feeds the roots looks like something I’d scoop out of the ground rather than just a mass of brown. Even the sky has texture and fluffy clouds, but it’s the cute squirrel, the fuzzy bees, their hive, and the bear they’ll enjoy most.

Home School Book Review, December 2012
What do you think would be the reason why a bear might want to climb a tree? In this rhythmic, repetitive text, reminiscent of "The House That Jack Built" and beautifully illustrated by Kathleen Rietz, author Marianne Berkes tells about all the different things that relate to the tree--its roots, the soil, the rain, its trunk, its branches, its leaves, the sun, its blossoms, its pollen, the bees, the hives, the honey, and, of course, the bear. Ah! Now you know why the bear climbed the tree. But what will the bees do? And how will the bear react?

In addition to the fun, cumulative story that children will enjoy reading for themselves or hearing read aloud, the four pages of "For Creative Minds" learning activities include additional information on the basic needs of plants, plant body parts, and how plants interact with animals, along with some hands-on plant experiments. There are also some forty to seventy pages of free additional teaching activities available at the publisher's website. Trees are a very important aspect of our ecology. The Tree that Bear Climbed will introduce young readers to what makes up a tree and some of the ways that we can benefit from trees.
--Wayne S. Walker