The end of summer is nearing, at least in my neck of the woods. Although the temperatures remain high, the sunflowers are past their prime. School buses search out new routes, and my inbox is filled with “Back to School” promotions. Before we turn the corner to fall, I think it’s the perfect time to be out exploring the natural world, or reading about it, don’t you?
Title: Be A Tree!
Written By: Maria Gianferrari
Illustrated By: Felicita Sala
Publisher/Date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2021
Suitable for Ages: 4-8 and up
Themes/Topics: trees, community, strength, free verse poetry, environment, cooperation
Be a tree!
Stretch your branches to the sun.
Brief Synopsis: A comparison of trees and people, showing our strengths and need for community.
Links to Resources:
- If you were a tree, what type would you like to be? Draw a picture of your favorite type of tree;
- Take a walk and check out the different species of trees that grow in your community;
- Check out the Back Matter that includes an author’s note, five ways you can help save trees, how you can help in your community, anatomy of a tree, and further resources.
Why I Like this Book:
Using lyrical language, Gianferrari explores the similarities between people and trees. Like trees, we have an outer layer. Our spines are a trunk, giving us shape. At our tops, we have crowns of leaves or hair.
Like people, readers learn, trees communicate and help each other “share food, store water, divide resources, alert each other to danger.” Trees create, as it were, a “wood wide web of information”.
Gianferrari shows that both people and trees are stronger when they live in communities. A fold out spread shows diverse groups of people and various animals enjoying the shade of many different types of trees. A final spread featuring people of different races, ethnicities, ages, and abilities drives home the point that when we live in harmony with one another, as trees do, we are stronger, like a forest.
I really love how Gianferrari’s sparse language encourages kids, and their adults, to draw similarities between ourselves and such an important part of our natural surroundings. I also love the overarching message that we’re all better off when we take care of each other.
Sala’s watercolor, goache, and colored pencil illustrations include sweeping vistas of many types of trees and forests, and anatomical close-ups.
Be A Tree! is an engaging read-aloud and fact-filled book for school and home libraries.
A Note about Craft:
In Be A Tree! Gianferrari uses strong verbs to exhort readers, whom she addresses directly, to picture themselves as trees, to act as trees, and to live in a community that includes humans and nature. I love the analogies between tree and human anatomy. I also love the metaphor of people being part of a forest, a community that is better together.
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!