I didn't know a lot about my grandparents. I guess you could say I've never been bitten by the genealogical bug that drives some to go back hundreds of years in search of family history. I think it's called finding your family tree. I do know that at some point during my paternal grandfather's life, he worked as a lumberjack, which is probably how my father learned how to identify trees. Unfortunately, I'm not very adept at tree identification. I can tell a maple from an oak, and a pear from an apple, but we all know there's hundreds more varieties.
So, when I heard about the Arbor Day Foundation coming out with a compact little tree identification book, I was intrigued. About a week later, I received an advanced copy of the little book and I now offer my review.
A sort of disclaimer first though, there's no leaves on the trees yet here in zone 5 western PA, but that really don't alter my critique of this little book. The first thing I do with any new book is hold it to my nose, fan through the pages, and inhale deeply; I just love the smell of a new book. You avid readers know what I mean. The second thing I noticed was the book's water-resistant cover, which feels really rugged and would prevent some water damage should you encounter a rain shower while using the book. However, the book's inside pages are not waterproof. But I wouldn't think many folks would be out tryin to ID trees in the rain anyway.
There's flaps on the front and back of the book. The front one unfolds to show "Words to Know" and gives simple definitions of 26 words relating to parts of a tree. There's a couple of small, nicely done drawings, one shows three different types of samara (winged fruit), some maples have what I call "helicopter" samara; the other has a couple of leaves with identifying features named, there's also a small drawing of a stem showing a "bud scar." These are all what I would consider to be very helpful tree identification facts. Inside the back flap is Arbor Day Foundation information along with an edge ruler (in cm), and on the outside is info about the book and an edge ruler in inches (handy for general purpose measuring).
So, how do you use the book to identify a tree? It's really easy. All you have to do is answer a series of "yes" and "or" questions which direct you to another identifying feature, or gives you the name of the tree. The illustrations by Karina I. Helm are very well done with just the right amount of detail.
Included in the little book is the "Arbor Day Hardiness Zones" map and several blank pages at the end for "Field Notes" and "Field Sketches," and an Index. I give the "What Tree Is That?" tree identification guide a positive review and would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about what trees might be growing in their neck of the woods. Its compact size, great drawings, and ample listing of trees make it a valuable addition to the garden bookshelf.
You can order "What Tree Is That?" online now. The book will also be available everywhere else April 1st.