MTYT: Trees: Nature All Around

By Deanna Day-Wiff, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA, and Kathleen Crawford-Mckinney, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

Trees. They make our world more beautiful and they provide food and shelter for wildlife and keep the soil, water and air clean for us. They decorate front and back yards across North America. Their wood is used for paper and lumber. Wooded areas are preserved for us to hike and enjoy nature. Trees are a necessity and are the theme of this month’s My Take/Your Take. Learn about all of the new children’s books around trees through the perspectives of Deanna Day and Kathleen Crawford-McKinney.

Trees Nature All Around

DEANNA: “Do you like to climb trees, sit under their shady branches on a hot summer’s day, eat apples and peaches, read books or watch birds?” Thus opens this nonfiction picturebook Trees: Nature All Around. It includes 14 brief chapters, a glossary and index. Children will learn about different kinds of trees, the unusual sizes and shapes of leaves, photosynthesis, aging and pollination of a tree, as well as the largest tree in the world to the strangest trees. Many facts are included with each changing season, such as winter–bare branches make the tree appear dead but if you take a closer look there are tiny buds at the tips. A map shows North America and all of the unique forest regions. Children can find the region they live in and determine the main tree species.

One double page spread titled “A Terrific Tree House” shows a large tree with the animals that live in it: woodpeckers, red squirrels, porcupines, white–tailed deer and honeybees, to name a few. The watercolor and gouache illustrations are childlike in nature inviting children to carefully explore each bug in this habitat.

Another favorite page of mine encourages children to choose a tree in their neighborhood and watch it through the seasons–tree watching, similar to bird watching. Six tables showcase the shapes and silhouettes of trees, the leaves, the flowers, cones and fruit as well as bark and buds. Beginner tree watchers will be inspired to draw pictures or take photographs of their tree as it changes, taking notes to help them identify what kind of tree it is.

This fun filled book includes a variety of facts, vocabulary words, science information as well as conservation and the importance of trees. This is a must have text for every school library.

KATHLEEN: I didn’t think I was going to like this book at first, I prefer a good story. Information books are not always my favorite because they seem to provide just the facts with lots of text. This book has a lot of text in it, especially the “Trees in Summer” page. But, as I went back and forth throughout the book, skimmed pages for what I was interested in, and went back again to previous pages, I noted there is an amazing amount of information Hickman and Gavin through provide in their text and illustrations and provide me with a story about trees. The double page spread you mentioned, Deanna, “A Terrific Tree House” would be great to connect to the Wishtree as it provides factual information on trees that provide habitats for many animals.

As you mentioned Deanna, the “Beginner Tree Watching” page invites readers to select a tree in our own environment and watch it over a year. There are lots of prompting questions to think about while collecting data on the tree in terms of what it looks like, the shape, the leaves, and creating a field guide to document it all. It also includes an illustrated list of what is needed for a “tree–watcher’s backpack.” All of these suggestions would be a great way to introduce the importance of observation through scientific data collection. As Fall will be upon us soon, it would be interesting to try this out in classrooms in different global locations and share with each other what they observe and how they observed the selected trees.

This informational text draws the reader into how nature is all around us and contains many aspects of a non–fiction book in an inviting way such as table of contents, graphs, charts, glossary, and index. The vocabulary throughout the book introduces readers to terms such as photosynthesis, pollination, and tree cells. In particular, I like the way Carolyn Gavin’s illustrations help the reader visualize the dense content and labels the factual elements of trees throughout the book. Another book that is written for very young children, My little Forest by Katrin Wiehle (2019), uses labels to identify items in a forest and would be great to pair with this book. It is an environmentally friendly book, made from 100% recycled materials, encourages young readers to examine nature in a forest.

DEANNA: I enjoy pairing nonfiction books with fiction books such as My Forest is Green by Darren Lebeuf (2019). This is another international title about a little boy who looks outside his apartment window to a large urban forest with skyscrapers surrounding the perimeter and traffic driving by. On the next page readers see the little boy’s forest inside his bedroom. His desk is full of specimens he has collected from the forest and art work he has created as he has observed the forest.

I love this book because it shows how this child is a budding scientist and environmentalist. He observes the forest–watching the ants on the ground or blowing weeds in the wind. He takes notes by making bark prints, using different mediums such as crayon, paint or collage to illustrate what he notices and makes designs with found objects. He even takes photographs, collects different leaf patterns, paints rocks and makes sketches in his journal.

Both book titles paired together would entice children and adolescents to explore the outdoors, especially forests and trees. Have you ever paired books together before Kathleen?

KATHLEEN: Yes, but not with just other stories, I also like pairing with poems, music, visual prints. But that is a theme for another month!

Title: Trees: Nature All Around
Author: Pamela Hickman
Illustrator: Carolyn Gavin
ISBN: 9781771388047
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Date Published: April 2, 2019

Throughout September 2019, Deanna and Kathleen give their takes on books focused on the importance of trees. Check back each Wednesday to follow the conversation!

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