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The Great Kapok Tree

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest   Author and illustrator Lynne Cherry tells the tale of a man who is sent into the Amazon rain forest one day under instructions to chop down a great kapok tree. As he sleeps, animals emerge from the jungle canopy to plead with the sleeping ax-man to spare their home, and this unique perspective from the wildlife provides an intriguing scientific argument for preserving nature's gifts

  Voyager Books; Reprint edition; ISBN: 0152026142 (March 13, 2000)

(Reading level: ages 4-8)

Review by Mary Guthrie (September 2003)
Many parents might have thought to themselves, "I want to take my children to an entirely different and exotic place." They might want them really to feel the wilderness, and to understand what’s at stake with the loss of the Earth's ancient wild places. Lynne Cherry’s classic The Great Kapok Tree is one way to transport kids to such a place and teach them something we all need to know.

Two men walk into the rainforest; one stays and begins to swing an ax. He makes a deep strike to the base of a huge kapok tree. When he lies down to rest, he's approached by those who live in and near the tree. As he sleeps, they whisper in his ear, messages about how they need the tree to live their lives and raise their young, how the tree has been the home of their ancestors. "Senhor," they say, and gently tell him what violence his actions will do to their home.

A boa constrictor, bees, monkeys, birds, tree frogs, a jaguar, porcupines, anteaters, a three-toed-sloth, and even a child of the Yanomamo tribe all speak their piece to this man, and to us. "Senhor, when you awake, please look upon us all with new eyes." The forest's creatures persuade the woodcutter to drop his ax and walk away.

Cherry traveled to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, and what she saw there is displayed on the pages of The Great Kapok Tree. The detail, color and life she portrays bring the reader into the rainforest, help you feel its heat and hear its noises. Published in 1990, The Great Kapok Tree won awards and acclaim. It should now win a new audience of young people.

Visit Lynn Cherry's Web site at

To learn more about the reviewer, Mary Guthrie, click here.

To see Generation Green's reading list for kids and intermediate readers, click here.