Redwoods by Jason Chin


Cindy: We haven’t gotten over our fall fascination with the National Parks and so this week for Nonfiction Monday we are headed to California to explore the mighty redwoods. According to Redwoods (Roaring Brook/Flashpoint, 2009) since 1850 and the advent of large-scale logging “more than 95% of the original redwood forests have been destroyed. Only 18 percent of the remaining forests are protected.”

A young boy finds a book called Redwoods sitting on a subway bench and opens it on his ride. As he begins to read, strange things accompany his learning. He discovers that Redwoods are among the oldest trees and from the Jurassic period while dinosaurs appear outside the subway window. Learning that the trees are sometimes more than 2000 years old, some alive during the Roman Empire, he finds himself seated between a Roman Legionnaire and a toga-clad citizen. When he finally emerges from the subway stairs, he is far from the city and instead is in the redwood forest he’s been reading about. His adventures continue, even up into the canopy, as he learns about the trees he explores. If young readers are skeptical about trees that are big enough to drive through, head to this website for photos and directions to the three privately owned trees you can still drive through. Finally, the book gets left on another city bench for its next reader, a girl, to find and children will be ready to flip back to the beginning and start the journey again to look at the details in the illustrations.

Many facts, some of them amazing, are shared in this slim book (a mass of ferns weighing 1600 lbs. was once found growing up in a redwood tree). The message that we need to protect and enjoy these incredible trees that provide for many other plant and animal species is delivered by showing more than telling. No one shows better than a National Geographic photographer. Watch this video to see the planning and work and technology that went into photographing one of these amazing trees! I’m headed off to look for the Oct. 2009 issue of National Geographic with the 8 page fold out final product!


from The Official Travel Site of Humbolt County, Calif.

Lynn: As Cindy says, this wonderful book does a lot of showing and reinforcing textual concepts with the illustrations. This greatly expands the age range for this fascinating book. Independent readers can linger over the illustrations after reading the text, taking their time with all the book has to offer. Redwoods is also wonderful as a lap book or with small groups of pre-readers who can appreciate the detailed pictures while being read to. Our focus group was fascinated by this book and loved finding the little squirrel in all the forest scenes. There is a surprise about the squirrel too, making readers eager to turn the book over and start again, watching for the clues. Chin’s illustrations beautifully capture the sweeping grandeur of these magnificent trees, conveying a real sense of their size. This is Chin’s first book and it is superb: engaging, informative and entirely original in nonfictionmondayconcept. Let’s hope there will be many more.

Thank you to Tales from the Rushmore Kid for hosting Nonfiction Monday.



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

3 Comments on "Redwoods by Jason Chin"

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  1.' Angela says:

    I really wish I found cool things like books on redwoods on *my* subway benches! Allegedly my local branch of the library has this one on the shelf at the moment – I might pick it up tonight. I need a break from all the major downer books I’ve been reading recently.

  2. The story of a book and subway travel sounds like a natural fit. I recall reading a tree book while flying on a plane.

    I mentioned this book at the redwood parks visitor center, maybe they will be able to review it.

    MDV / Oregon

  3.' Sandra S. Mom says:

    This is abeautiful and imaginative book. It conveys LOTS of information about redwoods and rain forests without being in any way pedantic. It all feels like a wonderful adventure. And I love the “framing” — boy finds book, reads, loses, next reader finds book and is drawn into it. Congrats to Jason Chin!

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