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Cover image for There was a tree
There was a tree
Publication Information:
New York : Nancy Paulsen Books, ©2012.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 27 cm
A version of the cumulative song "The Green Grass Grew All Around," set in Africa.


Call Number
JP Isa

On Order



And the green grass grew all around, all around, the green grass grew all around!

This beautiful picture book is based on the words to a popular song that has been entertaining children for decades. Now the lyrics 'the prettiest tree that you ever did see' come to life in a gorgeous African setting-as a baby bird us getting ready to hatch on the branches of an umbrella acacia tree.

Caldecott Honor winner Rachel Isadora uses colourful rebus icons to illustrate the repeated words in the cumulative text, giving children an enjoyable and easy way to follow along. Sheet music is included as well, making it fun for families to not only read together - but to also sing along!

Author Notes

Rachel Isadora was born and raised in New York City. Rachel studied at the School of American Ballet and was a dancer with the Boston Ballet until a foot injury. She went from being a ballet dancer to an author and illustrator.

The first title she wrote and illustrated was Max. Since then she has written many others including Golden Bear, Ben's Trumpet, Nick Plays Baseball, Caribbean Dream, Mr. Moon and Not Just Tutus.

Her works have earned her several awards including the Caldecott Honor Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award. Her title Max, was named an ALA Notable Book.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 5

School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 1-In this illustrated version of a traditional cumulative song, Isadora sets the "hole in the ground and the tree in the hole" in Africa and uses her iconic collage-style illustrations to tell the story of a bug on a wing of a chick in an egg. and green grass growing all around, each page telling one of the verses. The rebus icons that the publisher's notes call "an enjoyable and easy way to follow along" are a clumsily introduced distraction. The music and lyrics on the last page take the lazy way out by providing four numbered verses followed by the dictate to "add a new phrase each time until the final verse," and then provides the last, numbered 9. Isadora's artwork is consistently attractive and includes some animals native to the setting, but they are not emphasized in any way, adding to the generic tone and losing an opportunity to extend and deepen the material. Susan K. Mitchell's Rainforest Grew All Around (Sylvan Dell, 2007) is a better choice.-Lisa Egly Lehmuller, St. Patrick's Catholic School, Charlotte, NC (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Isadora (Bea at Ballet) brings a traditional cumulative folk song ("And the green grass grew all around, all around...") to the African savannah. In her version, the hole in the ground is discovered by an African mother and her children; the tree is an acacia sapling growing next to a lion and her cub; and the bird is a superb starling, a beautiful creature with a black face and midnight blue wings who hatches a chick from a speckled egg. Her collages are composed of painted and patterned pieces of paper in vivid greens and hot oranges; outlines and facial features are overlaid in woodblock-like black lines. African textile motifs border the pages, and thumbnail images substitute for key words as the verses build up ("Oh, the chick in the egg, and the [picture of a bird] on the egg, and the [picture of an egg] in the nest"), turning the song into an absorbing rebus puzzle. It's also a gentle push toward opening up one's own storytelling tradition to the rest of the world. Musical notation and a rebus key are included, too. Ages 3-5. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Isadora recasts the popular cumulative song, more commonly known as The Green Grass Grew All Around, by visually setting it somewhere in Africa. There has been no change to the lyrics; we still have the hole, the tree, the branch, the nest, the egg, and so forth, but in the background we see animals such as lions, giraffes, elephants, and zebras. As the verses accumulate, the subject of each line is shown as a rebus, and the complete lyrics and musical notation are included at the end of the book. Orange, green, yellow, and brown predominate in the collage illustrations, which were created using cut paper painted with broad brushstrokes. The bright blue birds that play a starring role stand out dramatically against the earth-tone foregrounds and stark white backgrounds. Although highly stylized, they appear to be Superb Starlings, which are native to East Africa, a plausible setting that fits with the other animal species shown in the background. A fine contribution to illustrated picture books based on childrens songs. kathleen t. horning (c) Copyright 2012. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

The East African savanna forms the backdrop for this appealing version of a familiar American cumulative song. Returning to the African setting and textured collage technique she has used so successfully in adaptations of folk tales, Isadora reworks what has become a traditional children's song. (Credit to the 1912 songwriters and identification of the animals shown appear on the back jacket flap but not in the text.) The superb starling makes a splendid choice for the bird in the nest on the branch on the tree where the green grass grew all around, all around. Its bright blue and orange coloration both stands out and blends into the oranges and greens of this grassland world, which the artist has populated with people and iconic animals including lions, giraffes and elephants. Oil-painted and printed cut papers make up her scenes: The animals, plants and bright sun or concluding night sky are (mostly) set on a white background. Each illustration extends completely across the double-page spread, bordered by a square patchwork that sometimes includes what appear to be woven textiles. In the white spaces, the song grows, with small rebus images appearing after the first use of each word on the page. A key to the rebus appears at the end along with the music and lyrics. A read-aloud, sing-along delight. (Picture book. 3-7)]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

The popular folk song And the Green Grass Grew All Around gets a new setting in this lively picture book with bright, clear, colorful collage double-page spreads that show a small boy with his mother in the African savanna, pointing at a hole in the ground, a spreading acacia tree, a branch, and a nest. On each uncluttered spread, Isadora includes an African animal: a giraffe appears by the branch; a lion stands with her cub; a vervet monkey looks at a nest; butterflies fly overhead; and a chick hatches out of its egg. In a final scene, two kids stand under the tree, pointing at a gorgeous glowing sunset. The colorful borders include pieces of bright Kente cloth along with bands of geometric designs. For the cumulative chorus on each spread, Isadora uses rebus icons, which are explained in a final list, and she also includes sheet music and the full text at the back. This lively new version of a story hour standard will appeal to young preschoolers as well as to older kids on the cusp of reading.--Rochman, Hazel Copyright 2010 Booklist