Tomorrow is Arbor Day and it’s a special day to really stop and appreciate the wonderful and beautiful things that we take often take for granted…trees! Whether you plant a new tree in your neighborhood or at school, study a field guide of leaves, or go for walk in the woods, take a few moments to share a love of trees with a child. Here are a few favorite picture books that do just that:
A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Marc Simon (Harper Collins, 1956)
A tree is nice all year round. You can play in its fallen leaves in the autumn and enjoy its cool shade in the summer heat. You can swing in its branches and eat its fruit. With a poetic simplicity, Udry’s text captures just why a tree is so nice and useful for all those things in life we might take for granted. Caldecott-winning art by Marc Simont perfectly mirrors the height and simple beauty of a tree with its tall and skinny book format. The book closes with the pride and enjoyment that comes from planting a tree. “Every day for years and years you watch the little tree grow. You say to people, ‘I planted that tree.’ They wish they had one so they go home and plant a tree too.”
A Grand Old Tree by Mary Newell DePalma (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2005)
With simple text and cheery watercolor and collage illustrations, Mary Newell DePalma explores the life cycle of a tree, throughout the seasons and over a span of many years. Truly a bright and beautiful book that explains even to the youngest audiences how everything in nature is connected.
A Log’s Life by Wendy Pfeffer, illustrated by Robin Brickman (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997)
Similar to A Grand Old Tree, A Log’s Life shows how a tree is important to many creatures, even when the tree itself is no longer standing. By showing the process of decomposition and then a new seedling sprouting all the way back back to decomposing log, this book highlights the eternal and essential life cycle of nature. Robin Brickman’s cut-paper collage illustrations are amazing – like detailed dioramas that absolutely make this book come alive.
Redwoods by Jason Chin (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2009)
This book is a delightful mix of nonfiction facts about redwood trees and playful metafiction and fantasy. A boy reading a book about redwood tress on the subway ends up stepping out of the city and into a redwood forest to explore and discover these amazing trees. In a Jumanji-esque ending, he leaves the book on a park bench for another child to discover. The very book, the reader notices, that is in her own hands.
The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry (Harcourt Books, 1990)
This well known picture books show the interconnectedness of the rainforest ecosystem and the importance of preserving it from deforestation. A logger set on cutting down a kapok tree, grows hot and tired in the heat and decides to rest before he finishes. One by one all the animals who depend on the tree for food, shelter and survival make their pleas to the logger not to cut it down.
Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler (Lee & Low Books, 2010)
Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster, 2010)
These two gorgeously illustrated and distinctly different picture books both tell the story of Dr. Wangari Maathai, the leader of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya and the first African woman and environmentalist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari, also called Mama Miti (which means Mother of Trees) brought attention to the deforestation in her homeland by starting a widespread movement to plant and replace Mugumo trees which are essential to Kenya’s natural ecosystem. These two books are not only beautifully illustrated but also truly inspiring.
We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow, illustrated by Bob Staake (A Golden Book, 2010)
Beginning with a quote from Dr. Wangari Maathai, this book expands on the Green Belt Movement in Kenya to show families around the world planting trees and reaping the benefits – cleaner air, cool shade, food, with a place for animals to live and for children to play. With Bob Staake’s bright and colorful illustrations, this is a wonderful book to share with even the youngest readers.
There are so many terrific picture books that instill a love of trees in readers. What are you favorites? Share your suggestions with our readers in the comments below. Happy Arbor Day!