Written by Claire Babin
Illustrated by Oliver Tallec
Enchanted Lion, 2008
$14.99 each, ages 3-8, 32 pages
As a boy rests against a tree, he dreams that his feet have rooted into the ground and he's sprouted branches in this exhilarating French import.
In this second book in the Gus nature series, Gus steals away to sit quietly under a tree while other children in his schoolyard peel around and play.
He loves the grooves of the tree's bark, the way the leaves shimmer above him and the earthy fragrance of the wood.
With his back against the tree, he closes his eyes, reaches up with his hands to stroke the bark and remembers a walk through the forest with his father.
As memories of twigs crackling underfoot return, slumber takes him and Gus dreams.
In his imagination, he's a big old tree with thick branches for arms and bark striped like the sleeves of his shirt.
Gus continues to feel sensations like a child would and even gets ticklish as the wind swirls about his leaves.
"He shivers right down to the veins in his leaves," Babin writes. "His branches wave and sway, rocking him just like his mommy does when he sits on her lap."
Surrounded by a leafy crowd of birches, oaks and beeches, Gus watches the sun set, as the forest takes on the red, orange, yellow and green hues of his shirt.
A wild boar snuffles around with her babies, as stars peak through the canopy and the forest grows dark but not as inky black as he thought.
Awash in moonlight, the night is like a new day: he hears the inquisitive calls of owls, and watches bats swerve around him and a dormouse scamper away.
Raindrops begin to fall, plip-plop, on his leaves, soaking the moss around his roots, and he feels the claws of squirrels racing down his trunk.
Then suddenly a bright light fills his eyes and he awakes to hear his friends from the playground gather around him in slickers as rain streaks down.
Gus is a Tree makes readers feel, as John Muir once put it, in the world, not just on it, and eager to set out for a wild place of their own.
Muir said that when he went for a walk one evening, he thought he was just going out, when it turned out he was really going in, and Gus captures that same idea.
Here readers are enticed to let go of distractions and give themselves over to the beauty and calm of the natural world.
At the end of the story, readers can read more about forest words highlighted in the text, such as how the veins of leaves pull water and sap to all parts of the tree.
Don't miss Babin and Tallec's first book in the series, Gus is a Fish, in which Gus imagines during a bath that he's sprouted fins.