Tag Archives: families

All About Trees

by Katrina Morse
for Family Reading Partnership

A tree can be a memorable part of childhood. A tree can hold a swing or a birdhouse. Some trees are good for climbing and others for picking apples. A tree’s leaves can change from green to bright red, yellow, and orange. Children can watch a small tree grow bigger, just as they are growing, too.

Learn more about these remarkable plants by reading some of these books together, and maybe you’ll look at the trees around you in a new way.

“We Planted a Tree” by Diane Muldrow illustrated by Bob Staake.“We planted a tree and it grew up. We planted a tree and that one tree helped heal the earth.” Two families on opposite sides of the world both find that trees are important for shade, cleaning the air, giving us food, and helping to keep soil from washing away.

“The Great Kapok Tree” by Lynne Cherry. When a man comes to the Amazon rainforest to cut down a Kapok tree, he first takes a nap at its base and then hears whispered messages of the animals that depend on the tree for survival. When the man wakes up, he has changed his mind about using his axe to cut the tree down.

“Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids” by Gail Gibbons. Along with giving the reader facts about all the ways trees are an important part of the web of life, this book teaches how to tell one tree apart from another. You and your child will learn types of trees and why we all should appreciate these amazing plants.

“Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf” by Lois Ehlert uses simple text and collage illustrations to describe the life of a tree. The book text will engage young children and older children will appreciate the glossary the back of the book that goes into more detail about the life cycle of a tree.

“The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever” by H. Joseph Hawkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This is a biography of Katherine Olivia Sessions in the 1800s. As Kate was growing up, she became fascinated with the trees around her in northern California. Although it wasn’t common for girls at that time to get dirty hands or to be a scientist, Kate pursued her love of trees. When she was older she helped change San Diego, in southern California, from a desert city to one with an abundance of lush green trees. Charming illustrations depict the events in the life of this environmental pioneer.

“Strange Trees and the Stories Behind Them” by Bernadette Pourquie and Cecile Gambini. Trees are very adaptable and have developed special characteristics that help them live in many different habitats. Early elementary aged children will appreciate the unbelievable tree forms and a map showing where all these unusual trees grow around the world.

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Taking Care of Mother Earth

ImageEarth Day has been celebrated on April 22 since 1970. It is a day to honor our Earth so that individual American citizens and politicians will seriously consider the health and future of our planet.

What can one person do–especially a child, to help our Mother Earth? Even small actions done by an individual to stop polluting the water, air, and land can collectively make a big difference. Teach your child the importance of recycling and reusing everyday items to reduce the amount of garbage in the world. Teach about the animals of the world and how they need their own environments, uncontaminated by humans, to survive. Teach your child to treat the Earth kindly and you will be helping to ensure that our children will have a healthy planet to live on in the future.

Some favorite read-aloud books with Earth-friendly themes:

“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss. When a family of Once-lers goes into producing Thneeds (which everyone needs), the Truffala Trees start disappearing as the roads, factories, wagons and loads all get “biggered.” The beautiful, colorful landscape becomes dull and gray. It looks like all will be lost, unless…

“The Great Kapok Tree” by Lynne Cherry. In a tropical Amazon rain forest, a man with an ax begins chopping down a sprawling Kapok tree. When he tires and falls asleep, the many animals of the forest creep into his dreams and tell him how much the Kapok tree means to each for survival. Cherry’s realistic illustrations depict many “wondrous and rare” animals. 

“Bald Eagle Returns” by Dorothy Hinshaw. Photographs of real bald eagles in the United States accompany the story of how our national bird went from being an endangered species to being more common.

“Joseph Had a Little Overcoat” by Simms Taback. This is a traditional Jewish folk tale about a man with an overcoat that wears out; but that’s not the end of the story! The overcoat’s life is extended when it is made into a vest, then a muffler, then made into smaller articles of clothing until it is just one button big. A humorous look at “reusing.”

“Too Much Garbage” by Fulvio Testa. A boy takes a filled garbage bag down to the curb in front of his apartment building and sees his friend doing just the same thing. When the two look down the street, they realize how much garbage has been put out. They start seeing garbage everywhere. When will it end? Where does it all go? 

Learn about different earth elements with these books:

“When the Giant Stirred: Legend of a Volcanic Island” by Celia Godkin. A pleasant story of a peaceful island and the plants and animals that live there. When it rumbles, when the “giant” stirs, the people leave the island, it explodes and then turns black. Eventually plants and animals come back, but the middle of the island is gone. Realistic watercolor.

“Rain” by Manya Stojic. “It was hot. Everything was hot and dry.” The rain comes to the African plain so the animals can smell, see, hear, feel and taste it. The landscape explodes with lush color… and then… “The sun shone over the plain. It was hot. Everything was drying out…” How do the animals and plants adapt?

“Water Dance” by Thomas Locker. Beautiful paintings show the water cycle on the Earth. Water moves and changes shape and form from rivers, waterfalls, oceans, clouds, rain, and mist. 

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Meet Kevin Henkes, Children’s Book Writer and Illustrator

Mice who get worried, mice who are best friends, mice who are brave… Children’s book author and illustrator Kevin Henkes has nine adorable mouse characters with distinct personalities that he writes and paints into picture books about growing up.

ImageHenkes is expert at stepping into a child’s world and telling stories about life changing moments.  You can read about what happens when Owen wants to take his fuzzy yellow blanket to school. Read about how Penny finally shares a song she learned with her family. Find out why Chrysanthemum’s classmates think her name is funny and what happens in school. There are serious issues for young children and Henkes writes about many of them.

Based in Wisconsin, Henkes has been writing and illustrating books for more than 30 years. As he says on his website, http://www.kevinhenkes.com, “It’s the only real job I’ve ever had.” Surprisingly, Henkes writes out his stories in longhand with a pen then types them up on a typewriter with a ribbon. He uses animal characters so he can “better tap the humor of the text.”

Mouse characters are just one of many types of books Henkes has created. His most recently published are picture books for very young children, such as “Little White Rabbit” and Caldecott winner “Kitten’s First Full Moon.” With these he distills the text down to the golden nugget of an idea and keeps the story very simplistic. Henkes says he has to be direct with the illustrations and he writes and rewrite until the rhythm of the text is just right.

Henkes also writes novels for young adults. He describes the process of writing longer books as using words to make shadow, light, and color instead of his paint. Titles include “Junonia,” “Bird Lake Moon,” and “Olive’s Ocean.”  In his novels he has one partial page of an illustration per chapter.

No matter what age he is writing for, his goal is to create “a book that is entertaining that a kid will love. Keeping that in mind urges me to make the very best books possible. I know how important the books from my childhood were (and are) to me. Without them, I might not be a writer and artist today.”

“Sometimes I’ll hear from a parent about how a book of mine has insinuated itself into the heart of his or her child, or how a phrase from one of my books has become part of the family’s daily jargon. I love that.”

Check out the selection of books by Kevin Henkes and see which resonate with your children. As Henkes says, “Expose our kids to books and art and nothing but good can come from it.”

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