________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 11 . . . . February 3, 2006


The Big Tree Gang. (Orca Echoes).

Jo Ellen Bogart. Illustrated by Dean Griffiths.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
61 pp., pbk., $6.95.
ISBN 1-55143-345-1.

Subject Headings:
Brothers and sisters - Juvenile fiction.
Nature - Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Saache Heinrich.

***½ /4


Reg woke up on the first day of summer vacation. He threw off his covers. The sun was shining through the window. The day was already getting very warm. He went to wake up Keely.

“Wow, is it hot!” said Keely. “Now it feels like summer!”

At the breakfast table, their mother said, “Do you two remember that Grandma is coming for supper tonight?”

“Of course we remember,” Reg said. “Today is Grandma’s birthday. Her present is in my room. I wrapped it myself.”

“I’m all ready too,” said Keely.

Their mother smiled at them. “What are you going to do for fun on this very hot day?”

“We’re meeting Burt and Shawn at Big Tree,” said Reg.

Keely had peeled her banana and arranged the four strips to make a letter K. “K for Keely,” she said. Then she sang, 
Keely, Keely, banana peely,
Very hot is how I feely.

Reg rolled his eyes at Keely. “We’ll decide together what we're going to do,” he told his mother.

Keely and Reg headed off to Big Tree, and on the way Keely sang,
Hot, hot summer day,
Too hot to run, too hot to play.


The Big Tree Gang is an early reader “chapter” book with a collection of six stories about twins, Keely and Reg, and their friends, Burt and Shawna. Each chapter features a stand-alone story that is linked to the others by the nature-loving twins’ adventures in the great outdoors. Keely and Reg are very likeable characters: Keely composes endearing impromptu songs, and Reg has a collection of rocks and boundless good ideas. By creating such a likeable boy-girl twin pair, Bogart has written a book with both boy and girl appeal.

internal art

     This book is ideal for young readers venturing into chapter reading. It features short sentences with chapters six or seven pages long including plenty of illustrations to break up the text. Since each chapter is non-sequential, young readers could read chapters randomly without losing the meaning of the stories. 

     The pencilled illustrations, drawn by Dean Griffiths, are quite wonderful. Griffiths depicts Keely and Reg as skunks while Burt is a possum and Shawna, a rabbit. But, if it weren’t for the illustrations showing the four characters as furry creatures, readers could quite naturally picture the Big Tree Gang as children like themselves. Bogart has the twins interacting just as every set of human siblings does as they learn about sharing, playing together and appreciating the things that each other loves.

     Jo Ellen Bogart is an award-winning author whose body of work includes Jeremiah Learns to Read and Gifts. A sequel to The Big Tree Gang is apparently in the works.

Highly Recommended.

Saache Heinrich is a children’s services librarian for the Saskatoon Public Library in Saskatoon, SK.


To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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