PPBF – The Book Tree

Earlier this week, people across the globe marked World Book and Copyright Day, “a celebration to promote the enjoyment of books and reading. Each year, on 23 April, celebrations take place all over the world to recognize the magical power of books – a link between the past and the future, a bridge between generations and across cultures.”

When I read today’s Perfect Picture Book, I thought it would be perfect to feature this week – I hope you agree!

Title: The Book Tree

Written By: Paul Czajak

Illustrated By: Rashin Kheiriyeh

Publisher/Date: Barefoot Books/2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-9

Themes/Topics: books; reading; power of words; activism


Nestled in the branches of a tree, Arlo opened his book and breathed in.

Beginnings were always the best part. They smelled as if anything were possible.

Brief Synopsis: When Arlo’s book falls and hits the mayor in the head, the mayor destroys all of the books, but books, like ideas, have a way of reemerging.

Links to Resources:

  • Dress up as a favorite picture book character – see some ideas here;
  • Discover many times and places to read books in this “Share a Story Reading Star” challenge; Where else, and with whom, do you enjoy reading?
  • Create a character (is s/he big or small, short or tall, an alien, beast or child?) and write or draw a picture about that character;
  • Create a  book garden by planting flowers, fruits or vegetables featured in  books that you love;
  • Share your favorite book with family, friends or classmates.

Why I Like this Book:

Czajak uses humor and fantasy to explore in a child-relatable way a very serious topic: The desctruction and banning of books. What happens when books disappear in a society? Per Czajak, recipes aren’t in cookbooks, so food becomes bland and boring, story time at school becomes nap time, the theaters close without plays to perform, and kids become bored. Adults know many other things happen, too, but these examples are things that kids can understand.

I like Czajak’s very visual way of showing children how ideas spread and how our actions can produce change. As the mayor observes, books “act like seeds, which grow into ideas, and ideas turn into questions.” And as Arlo shows, the opposite is also true. He turns his ideas into stories which nourishes the book tree and helps it grow. In the end, even the mayor can’t resist the allure of books and reading.

Kheiriyeh’s fanciful, brightly-colored collage and painted illustrations further the whimsical tone of The Book Tree. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of book blossoms with text in multiple languages that highlights the importance of books from around the world.

A Note about Craft:

Czajak’s text is rich with gardening imagery, including smells. A book page reminds Arlo of “a dandelion seed drifting on a wish.” A writer is a “book gardener”. Books spread “like pollen in the wind”, and, as the book tree flourishes, “the town blossomed.” Including this imagery draws readers into the story and helps us believe in the possibility of a book-bearing tree.

Visit Czajak’s website to see more of his books. Iranian-born, US-based Rashin Kheiriyeh is an illustrator of numerous children’s books including Two Parrots, Ramadan, and Saffron Ice Cream, her debut as author-illustrator.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

20 responses to “PPBF – The Book Tree

  1. I was a tree climber and book reader when I was growing up–this sounds like a perfect book for me too! Thanks for sharing it!

  2. What a great topic to discuss with children. It sounds like a fun read and I know kids will have a lot of their own opinions to share during discussion time! You find such unusual books.

    • I confess to finding this book in another review. The idea of an adult in authority banning books and a child, with the help of some magic, bringing them back, resonated with me.

  3. What a delightful book! I love how it leads into discussions about book censorship.

    • This is a wonderful way to bring up that difficult subject of book banning with older kids. I think it also will prompt discussions about thinking for oneself.

  4. Although I always sat on the grass in the shade of a tree to read and not up in the branches, I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this book.

  5. Now I am very curious. Thanks for the great descriptions, I will definitely go look for this one.

  6. Lovely similes and descriptions.

  7. Wow wow wow! I’ve got to get this one! Love the topic and its creative treatment. Brilliant!

  8. The San Francisco Public Library doesn’t have this one in its collection (even thought they have other books by Czajak), so I suggested it. And it was interesting to see that the book didn’t come up on Amazon when I was trying to find its ISBN, even though I typed in its title. It wasn’t until I added the last name of the author that it finally popped up. Wonder if Amazon has a strange algorithm that suppresses titles from less popular publishers.

  9. This sounds like it has many layers — just the kind of book I love!

    • This does have many layers – young kids will enjoy the story, I think, and the magical idea of books growing on trees, while older kids can discuss the issue of book banning and whether our elected officials are always truthful or right.

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