With Earth Day this week, and National Poetry Month in full swing, I couldn’t resist sharing this Perfect Picture Book that includes poetry, gorgeous forest vistas, and even suggestions to help our forests.
Title: The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom
Written & Illustrated By: Lita Judge
Publisher/Date: Roaring Brook Press/2021
Suitable for Ages: 7-12
Themes/Topics: trees, nature, community, ecology, poetry, botany
A Secret Kingdom
I am a single beech,/ but I am not alone./Together with my fellow trees,/ we form a secret kingdom.
Brief Synopsis: A series of free-verse poems and informative sidebars explore the hidden communities, communications, and cooperation that help strengthen trees and the world.
Links to Resources:
- Check out the Back Matter which provides further information about the topics covered in the book and ideas for how you can help forests;
- Plant a family tree;
- Explore other kid-friendly tree planting activities.
Why I Like this Book:
With gorgeous two-page watercolor illustrations, free verse poems, and informative sidebars, Judge introduces children to a world of trees. After the introductory poem of the opening, readers are asked to imagine the stories that ancient trees could tell. We then learn that trees have a “secret language” that humans can’t read or hear, that they communicate with each other to help trees live longer. How cool is that! What child wouldn’t be intrigued, especially when they learn that trees’ communication “begins deep underground.”
With catchy titles that invite reading and rereading, such as “How to Speak in Tree” and “Like the Bear”, the poems provide some basic information, like the role of fungal partners in communication and the role of hibernation. In sidebars that accompany these poems, Judge delves deeper, sharing the secrets of the “wood wide web” and the cork layers that form as temperatures drop to keep wood tissue from bursting like frozen water pipes in unheated houses.
Younger children can enjoy and learn some basic botany by listening to the poems and examining the detailed illustrations. Even the youngest toddlers can search for the birds and other woodland creatures in each spread. Older children and adults can learn much more from the sidebars and back matter.
I especially enjoyed the poem “We Are a Village” which reminds readers that a forest is comprised of a “diversity of trees”, each serving “a purpose in the rich fabric of life.” Just as diverse human communities are stronger and just as humans need each other, readers learn that “[t]ree diversity leads to healthier forests and helps multiple species of wildlife thrive by providing a wide range of food and homes.”
The extensive back matter includes an Author’s Note, further exploration of the topics covered, ways to help our forests, a glossary, sources, and more.
Whether for a home, classroom, or library, The Wisdom of Trees is a stunning resource that children and adults will find fascinating.
A Note about Craft:
Judge tackles a huge topic in The Wisdom of Trees, and she even shares some cutting-edge science. How does she make it accessible to children? I think she succeeds by dividing the subject matter into discreet topics, presenting basic introductory facts in each poem, offering more detailed information in the side bars and back matter, and completing the package with gorgeous illustrations of trees and forest animals. And to entice children to explore this wisdom, she begins in “A Secret Kingdom” where a single beech holds center stage. She then draws us in further by sharing that trees have their own stories and that we can learn about their communication by looking “deep underground”. What child or adult wouldn’t want to read on!
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!