Tag Archives: botany

PPBF – The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom

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

Opening:

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:

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!

Perfect Pairing – of Natural Women

For the last Perfect Pairing post of March, I’m channeling my inner-Carol King, and focusing on Natural Women, or more precisely, picture books about two 19th century women who loved nature and shared it with others.

The Bluest of Blues: Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photography

Author & Illustrator: Fiona Robinson

Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2019

Ages: 6-9

Themes: nature; botany; women’s history; photography

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A gorgeous picture book biography of botanist and photographer Anna Atkins–the first person to ever publish a book of photography
After losing her mother very early in life, Anna Atkins (1799–1871) was raised by her loving father. He gave her a scientific education, which was highly unusual for women and girls in the early 19th century. Fascinated with the plant life around her, Anna became a botanist. She recorded all her findings in detailed illustrations and engravings, until the invention of cyanotype photography in 1842. Anna used this new technology in order to catalogue plant specimens—a true marriage of science and art. In 1843, Anna published the book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions with handwritten text and cyanotype photographs. It is considered the first book of photographs ever published. Weaving together histories of women, science, and art, The Bluest of Blues will inspire young readers to embark on their own journeys of discovery and creativity.

Read a review at Kirkus Reviews.

Out of School and into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

Author: Suzanne Slade

Illustrator: Jessica Lanan

Publisher/Date: Sleeping Bear Press/2017

Ages: 7-10

Themes: science; biography; nature; women’s history

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

This picture book biography examines the life and career of naturalist and artist Anna Comstock (1854-1930), who defied social conventions and pursued the study of science. From the time she was a young girl, Anna Comstock was fascinated by the natural world. She loved exploring outdoors, examining wildlife and learning nature’s secrets. From watching the teamwork of marching ants to following the constellations in the sky, Anna observed it all. And her interest only increased as she grew older and went to college at Cornell University. There she continued her studies, pushing back against those social conventions that implied science was a man’s pursuit. Eventually Anna became known as a nature expert, pioneering a movement to encourage schools to conduct science and nature classes for children outdoors, thereby increasing students’ interest in nature. In following her passion, this remarkable woman blazed a trail for female scientists today.

Read a review at The Nonfiction Detectives.

I paired these books because they feature 19th century women who loved and studied nature and shared that love with others, despite societal expectations to the contrary. In The Bluest of Blues, Robinson shares Atkins’ passion for botany and her contributions to the scientific study of plants via early illustrations and engravings and later photographs. In Out of School, Slade details the life of Anna Comstock, who studied plants and insects at Cornell University in the 1870s, whose insect illustrations helped farmers to identify pests, who created lesson plans to encourage teachers to hold nature classes outdoors, and who wrote and published many books about nature. In both picture books, a clear take-away is to follow your passion and see where it leads.

Looking for similar reads?

See, The Girl who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science (Joyce Sidman, 2018); The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever (H. Joseph Hopkins/Jill McElmurry, 2013); I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon (Baptiste & Miranda Paul, 2019).