This vertically oriented picture book, first published in Italy in 2015, features a tall tree with a much-coveted nut amid its leafy branches. A small purple mouse stares up at it, declaring that she plans to gobble it up. After she shakes the tree—first to the right and then to the left (expect young readers to excitedly shake the book in solidarity)—a fox, not a nut, falls to the ground. He announces he’ll eat the mouse, who then scurries up the tree.
When the fox shakes the tree in an attempt to oust the mouse, a warthog drops to the ground. The warthog thinks the fox would make a great meal and declares she’ll eat him. Up the tree flees the fox. And so it goes, with a large bear falling from the tree when the warthog shakes it. When all the animals fall to the bear’s feet, the nut falls, too. The animals fear their demise when the bear announces, “I’m going to gobble you up!” Instead, bringing the story full circle, the bear goes straight for the nut.
All the action in Shake the Tree! takes place around the tree, with simple shapes on uncluttered spreads and much top-to-bottom (and vice versa) movement. When each animal faces off with the hungry creature at the bottom of tree, illustrator Silvia Borando opts for horizontal, bright red spreads, the color signifying the danger and alarm at hand. This makes the book’s twist ending all the more surprising for the young readers at whom the book is aimed.
An entertaining and lively read, this one is just right for story-time settings.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.