Apple and Magnolia, by Laura Gehl/Illustrated by Patricia Metola, (Feb. 2022, Flyaway Books), $18, ISBN: 9781947888357
Apple and Magnolia are two trees with a connection, witnessed by a young girl of color named Britta. She enjoys the tree’s relationship to one another; her father and sister may not believe her, but her grandmother assures her that “unusual friendships can be the most powerful of all”. When Magnolia begins to show signs of being ill, Britta does her best to stay by her friends and support them both, using the scientific method to help facilitate the trees’ connection to the other: she connects two cups to a string so they can hear each other; wrapping a scarf between the two to feel each other’s warmth; measuring the distance between the trees to see if they are growing closer together, and journaling her findings, all with the support and love of her grandmother. Britta’s father and sister are largely for comic relief, providing the devil’s advocate side of science: the nay-sayer. Cheery illustrations that look like they could be taken from Britta’s own journal make this a wonderfully playful readaloud, including endpapers that depict Britta’s sketches of the trees and their flowers and fruit. Inspired by the science of trees and how they communicate with one another, Apple and Magnolia is a great storytime readaloud and perfection for a STEM storytime or Discovery Club-type story. Author Laura Gehl’s website has a free downloadable Educator’s Guide for Apple and Magnolia, plus resources her many of her other books.
For more information about trees and their relationships to one another, visit this NPR article on an ecologist who’s studied trees; this article from Smithsonian magazine; and this article from One Tree Planted. Andy Hirsch’s Science Comics Trees: Kings of the Forest also delves into these complex and amazing relationships.
Apple and Magnolia has starred reviews from Kirkus and Foreword Reviews.