The Great Kapok Tree

The Great Kapok Tree

"The Great Kapok Tree" is an American children's picture book about rainforest conservation. It was written and illustrated by Lynne Cherry, and was originally published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1990. The book is dedicated to Chico Mendes, a Brazilian environmental activist who was murdered in 1988.Maura Dolan. "Kid books enlist in eco-war". "Los Angeles Times". September 9, 1992. 1.]


"The Great Kapok Tree" is set in the Amazon rainforest. A young man begins to chop down a kapok tree, following the orders of a "larger man". After he has hit the tree a few times with his axe, he sits down to rest and falls asleep. While he sleeps, several rainforest animals and a Ya̧nomamö child whisper into his ear and beg him to spare the tree, explaining its importance in the fragile ecosystem. When the man awakes, he leaves his axe at the foot of the tree and walks away.


Lynne Cherry conceived the idea for "The Great Kapok Tree" while on a train ride between Washington, DC and Connecticut. Afterwards, she started studying photographs from the World Wildlife Fund and roaming through the New York Botanical Garden for inspiration, but then decided to travel to Brazil to experience the rainforest firsthand. Arriving in 1989, she took a Jeep into the forest and spent several weeks sketching and photographing the animals she observed.Ellen J. Bartlett. "A colorful story to make kids earth-lovers". "Boston Globe". April 24, 1990. 25.]

Cherry initially had trouble finding a publisher for the book, as it was deemed "too controversial". However, she refused to alter the basic message.When the book was released in 1990, coinciding with the twentieth anniversay of Earth Day, Cherry told a reporter, "When kids grow up, in another 20 years, they'll be the people making the decisions. If they're raised with these ideas ingrained in them, it will affect national policy. We will have raised a whole generation of environmentalists."


Upon its release, the book received mixed reviews from some critics. Kimberly Olson Fakih in the "Los Angeles Times" praised it for its "splendid paintings in tropical colors" but said the story was undermined by "soap-box oratory". [Kimberly Olson Fakih. "The ecology of youthful minds". "Los Angeles Times". May 6, 1990. 12.] Similarly, Susan Bolotin in the "New York Times" said the book had "lush illustrations" but suffered from "peculiar language" and "preachiness". [Susan Bolotin. "Woodman, spare that tree!" "New York Times Book Review". May 20, 1990. 747.] However, the book proved to be a popular seller. The first printing of 15,000 copies sold out within a few weeks after the book's release, and by 1995, it had sold a quarter-million copies. [Cecilia Goodnow. "It's just Lynne Cherry's nature to get out the word on protecting the environment". "Seattle Post-Intelligencer". September 25, 1995. C1.] Many American elementary teachers started using the book in their classes, and the story even inspired some school plays. [Elizabeth Trimble. "Pupils play king of the jungle". "Telegram & Gazette". April 14, 1995. B1.]

"The Great Kapok Tree" has since received a Charlotte Award from the New York State Reading Association. [ [ Past Recipients of the Charlotte Award] . Retrieved on July 16, 2008.] It has also been named an NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children, an American Bookseller's Association "Pick of the Lists", and an International Reading Association Teacher's Choice. [ [ Lynne Cherry] . Reading is Fundamental. Retrieved on July 16, 1008]


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