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Launchpad: A Forest in the City, by Andrea Curtis

Imagine a city draped in green!

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This spring we've made it our mission (even more than usual) to celebrate new releases in the wake of cancelled launch parties, book festivals, and reading series. With 49th Shelf Launchpad, we're holding virtual launch parties here on our platform complete with witty banter, great insight, and short and snappy readings to give you a taste of the books on offer. You can request these books from your local library, get them as e-books or audio books, order them from your local indie bookseller if they're delivering, buy them direct from the publisher or from online retailers.

Today it's Earth Day, and we're launching A Forest in the City, by Andrea Curtis and Pierre Pratt, a book which "imagines a city draped in green."


Book Cover A Forest in the City

The Elevator Pitch. Tell us about your book in a sentence.

It’s a lushly illustrated kids’ nonfiction picture book that looks at the many benefits trees bring to cities and the challenges they face growing in a harsh urban environment.  

Describe your ideal reader.

Lives in a city and loves to dig in the soil, and roll in the grass, climb trees and has a running tally of urban wildlife sightings. 

What authors/books is your work in conversation with?

Ariel Gordon, Peter Wohlleben, Richard Powers and Brian Wildsmith  

What is something interesting you learned about your book/yourself/ your subject during the process of creating and publishing your book?

I never really put it all together before but I realize now that I’ve been thinking and writing about trees for most of my life. I grew up learning about leaf shapes and bark types, the different varieties of needles and being quizzed on it by my taxonomy-loving father. Later, I spent summers tree planting to pay for university, and when I became a journalist I wrote about trees everywhere from Toronto Life to Canadian Geographic to Chatelaine.     

What was the most interesting thing you learned in your research that you didn’t know before?

Two things: I learned that artificial light from lampposts in cities can affect trees’ natural rhythms of leaf and blossom growth; I also learned that scientists are using lichens and mosses on city trees to test if a particular industry is polluting that area.  

An important part of any book launch is the thank you’s. Go ahead, and acknowledge someone whose support has been integral to this project.

I am enormously grateful to everyone at Groundwood Books for helping create this beautiful book. I am particularly thankful to the late Sheila Barry, who introduced me to Groundwood and promised the book would be gorgeous. (She was right, of course!) Her enthusiasm, insight and sense of humour made everything seem possible.      

What are you reading right now or next?

I will read anything Toronto-based author and journalist Katrina Onstad writes and I can’t wait to dig into her new novel Stay Where I Can See You.


Book Cover A Forest in the City

About A Forest in the City:

“Imagine a city draped in a blanket of green … Is this the city you know?”

This beautiful book of narrative non-fiction looks at the urban forest, starting witha bird’s-eye view of the tree canopy, then swooping down to street level, digging deep into the ground, then moving up through a tree’s trunk, back into the leaves and branches.

It discusses the problems that city trees face such as the abundance of concrete, poor soil and challenging light conditions. It traces the history of trees in cities over time, showing how industrialization and the growth of populations in urban centers led to the creation of places like Central Park in New York City, where people could enjoy nature and clean air. It wasn’t until Dutch Elm disease swept across North America, killing hundreds of thousands of trees, that people realized how important trees are to our cities.

So how can we create a healthy environment for city trees? Some urban foresters are trying to create better growing conditions using specially designed soil trenches or planters, they are planting diverse species to reduce the harm of invasive pests, and they are maintaining trees as they age, among a number of other strategies.

The urban forest is a complex ecosystem, and we are a part of it. Trees make our cities more beautiful and provide shade but they also fight climate change and pollution, benefit our health and connections to one another, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and much more. It is vital that we nurture our city forests.

Includes a list of activities to help the urban forest and a glossary.

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