Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

Rating: 4 stars

This week Lorelei and Ben are at camp.  A camp that requires a bus.  A bus that will need to be ridden every day, starting in the fall.  As a rising second grader, Lorelei has been riding this bus for two years.  She's a book-wielding, bus-riding pro.  Ben, as a rising kindergartener, is a newbie. A rookie. And Ben was nervous for his first bus ride on this first day of camp.  As he matures, the hump he needs to get over before he's comfortable and confident decreases in size, but…it's still there.

On Monday morning he came down in his pajama bottoms, a bare chest, and a very wobbly chin.

"I'm scared, Mommy," he confessed, his eyes full of tears.  I gave him a hug, told him it was normal to feel scared on the first day of anything.  I had opened the door to the deck, letting in the sounds of a spring morning fill the space in which I was sitting and writing.  "Can I go outside?" he asked.  I nodded.

We are lucky to live in the woods, surrounded by tall trees that house loudly chirping birds.  I don't know what Ben did out there with only pajama bottoms and without shoes, but he came back in ten minutes later with a smile on.

We must have some magic trees that sprinkled some of their calming magic down on my nervous Ben.  It makes me smile now, just a few days later, to remember how quick was the transformation, how trees really did help get him to a better mood. I'm grateful that somehow this book now houses this memory inside its pages.

Tap the Magic Tree is a beautiful book, about a subject we love: trees.  I snatched it right up when I saw it in the library, eager to find out more about it. Flipping through it, I saw it was most likely inspired by Press Here, the wildly successful and truly wonderful book that's been on the New York Times best seller list for--get this--144 weeks.  And that made me skeptical of Tap the Magic Tree.

But I needn't have been.  The morning after Ben's nervous bus debut (which was wildly successful!), my trio and I sat outside for breakfast, surrounded by acres of tall, tall trees, and read this book together.    I wasn't sure it would work--Press Here is a lap book for one, really, not a circle-time book for a crowd--but it did work, and really well!

Matheson instructs us to tap the bare brown tree, then tap it thrice, then tap it many times, and as I turned the pages, the bare brown tree has more and more leaves on it.  When the kids "rubbed the tree to make it warm," buds appeared.  Instructions helped us help the tree to mature the buds to blossoms and then apples, then watch the apples fall, the leaves turn autumnal colors, then fall, then make snow…  You get the idea.

It worked, and worked well.  Especially for the three younger book lovers at the table who didn't start out skeptical at all.  We watched together the magical transformation of a single tree through the seasons, including pajama-clad Ben whose own magical transformation happened just the morning before!

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