As a child, I spent lots of time reading under trees. But there were things to consider. You had to get the right spot - the roots of the tree had to be large or small enough for you to sit comfortably, you needed shade, the type of tree was important too. But once you found the sweet reading spot, you found a spot you could call home as you read away the afternoon.
When I was younger and went to my Grandma’s Sue’s house, I would squirrel away to her yard where I would sit under this giant weeping willow tree, under one of three stumps. I always had a book with me, but I also used my trusted imagination to peep out from under the willowy branches and around the world I built around me. It is one of my favorite childhood memories.
Hopefully, some of these titles will inspire some memories for you and or your children!
Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson
When I first read this book to a group of children, I felt like I was holding a magical, treasured possession. As storytellers, we often have to invent ways of using text to engage with children, but this book does that work for us. It invites the readers to literally touch the book and have a magical reaction to it. As you play along with the book, you are treated to a hands-on experience of the real magic of the transformative process of the seasons to a tree. I won't give away all the fun discoveries you can make with the book, just trust me that it's a really fun read!
The Night Gardener by Terry Fan
William is an orphan who spends a lot of time looking out his window. His life is kind of boring and bland. Until one morning, when he awakens to an owl topiary in his neighborhood. No one knows who created it. William is fascinated with the new topiaries that seem to appear out of nowhere and is obsessed with discovering who is making them - and how! The pictures are wondrous and enchanting and will have you looking at trees in a whole new way!
Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid
I love the illustrations in this book, they look like Claymation photos! I also love this book because of how it calls to children to imagine a tree. If you thought of a tree in your head - what would it look like? Would it look the same as your friend would see it? This is a great book that encourages readers to celebrate different viewpoints and approaches to simple concepts. After reading this book, you may want to create your own version of how a tree looks to you!
Tree by Britta Teckentrap
I think Britta is a magician - her books are so adorable! She seems to know exactly how to draw children to her books. The cover of this book and the story inside has a hole in it - literally. A tiny owl pokes out through the center of the tree and watches us tell the story of the seasons and how they affect the tree. Children love books with holes in them! I'm not exactly sure why, just that they call to the power of play or discovery for children. The illustrations are luscious and whimsical. There is a lot of sub-story in the background, which children will love to pick out as they pore over this beauty of a book!
Fall Is Not Easy by Marty Kelly
Most of these tree books show how trees change with the seasons. This one also shows the changes that different seasons bring, but it definitely is the funniest one! When this tree starts to change for fall, it gets really confused! How should a tree change in fall? Instead of getting red, orange, or yellow leaves; the leaves change into funny designs and shapes that will have children and adults laughing. I made a felt story for this book, and it is always a hit with storytime and school crowds!
Because of an Acorn by Lola Schaefer
This is a really cute and simple nonfiction title. It would be a great story to share with toddlers, there are only a few words on each page. The pictures are so pretty, they would be a beautiful mural in a child’s bedroom. This book is great to think of how cause and effect works, and it also shows how a simple action could go on to do some much more. It reminds me of this quote I have paraphrased to describe how children’s librarianship feels to me: “I won't ever see the trees that I have planted from working with children, but I know with my listening, storytelling, and believing; those trees will grow!” This book also provides a simple understanding of how animals and other wildlife benefit from a tree.
The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and Jill McElmurry
One of the newest trends in children’s literature is nonfiction picture books. I think this book was one of the pioneers in this trend, as it was published four years ago, and the trend has been exploding lately! This book drew me in from the cover - a girl lies in the middle of the forest looking up at the trees - it brought me back to many of my childhood days, spent looking up at the sky and leaves in the trees.
This is the story of Kate Sessions and her love of nature and trees. She was an inspirational woman, being the first to graduate from the University of California with a degree in Science. Women in her time, were expected to stay nice and clean, but Kate loved getting her hands dirty. When she moved to San Diego, CA to teach, she was dismayed that there were no trees, so she studied and learned how to grow trees in the dry climate. The results are luscious trees that have outlived her lifetime!
The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry
This book is a staple in April (I’m a poet, and I didn’t even know it), because of Earth Day. This story shows how precious just one tree could be to the world. When a man comes into the rainforest to chop down a kapok tree, he works hard with his ax and soon grows sleepy. As he lays on the forest floor, creatures of the rainforest come out to whisper in his ear and plead with him not to cut down the tree and take away their home. I feel like this book has had such lasting power because of how mystical it seems to be sleeping still in a forest and be surrounded by animals asking you for help.
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
I think this book is really beautiful, both in illustration and story. It demonstrates how a little effort can change a community. Liam lives in town with no green life, until on a dark and dreary day, he goes exploring and discovers one tiny patch of plants that needed some TLC in the form of a gardener. He didn’t know exactly what to do, but he knew he had to do something! So the plants waited while he learned how much water they needed, and how much pruning. As the plants started to flourish, they began to spread out and grow. As the world literally blossoms, more people come out of their houses and join in on the fun, until their whole world has changed! I think this book would pair really well with The Lorax or for teens/adults a viewing of the movie, Pleasantville.
Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
I love Oliver Jeffers - his books are really funny and personable to children, but there are adult qualities of ludicrousness to them that always resonant with me. This book is a delight! When Floyd gets his kite stuck in a tree, he makes a logical assertion that he must throw something else up there to knock the kite out, so he tosses up one of his shoes. But that gets stuck, too! In the hilarious events that follow, he tries again and again to find an item to throw into the tree to unstick (unstuck?) his kite. As the story progresses, he tries even more ludicrous items to toss at the tree and get his kite free! Adults and children will be delighted at his attempts to rescue his kite!
The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
This book provides a pretty comprehensive look at the lives that live in and use a tree. I love how it shows how all the parts of the tree is used - from a twig holding a cocoon to a spider web between branches. This book provides lots of interesting vocabulary for young readers. The story is told in rhyming text that help young readers read along with you. This would be a great book for a one on one reading or in a small group. The illustrations are detailed and make the book seem to come alive. Using one spread at a time to show the smallest uses, is helpful for little ones to be able to really focus on what is being shown to them.
The Tree House by Marije Tolman & Ronald Tolman
I love wordless books! They are great for children to practice their vocabulary and background knowledge, and they are perfect for people who love to tell stories! This book is funny to me because it is the only book that I picked with no tree on the cover. If you look at the picture, it would seem that this book is about a bear and a whale, and that is the beginning of the story. Where the whale takes the bear, is all up to you!
I also love that the book is larger than most picture books, and really implores children to pore over it and discover what happens in the story. Lots of animals come in and the water level changes, and children can decide why those things happen - are they natural or imaginary? To me, it seems like a story about spending quality time with people you cherish, what will it mean to you?