The Jewish holiday Tu B’Shevat is coming up next week. Tu B’Shevat is the New Year or birthday of the trees and historically has to do with when you could eat the fruit off of a tree. In Israel, schoolchildren take to the hills and valleys and plant trees “as a response to and celebration of the critical role trees play in our environment and for life itself.” There are not a huge amount of great books specifically aimed at the holiday itself, but there are some really wonderful books about the trees – what they give us and how we can give back to them and the environment as a whole.
Happy Birthday, Tree by Madelyn Rosenberg
This is a special book about appreciating nature and how it is our job to take care of the nature around us. The story is of a young girl who has a favorite climbing tree in her front yard. When Tu B’Shevat comes around, she wants to help her tree celebrate its birthday. She and her friend find lots of ways to honor the tree and realize that the best thing to do is to plant another tree so that it has a companion. The fact that they give the tree a companion shows how we need to remember that nature is alive and we need to love it just as much as the people around us. There are also notes at the end of the book on various ways for us to help the earth.
It’s Tu B’Shevat by Edie Stoltz Zolkower
This is a great board book for younger kids to understand the holiday. One of the big themes of the holiday is to plant trees. This book focuses on that aspect at the beginning and then highlighting all of the wonderful things that we get from trees – fruit, shade, clean air, a place to swing…This is a great book for young Jewish learners.
A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry
This beautiful picture book is simple and speaks in a language that children truly understand. “Trees are nice. They fill up the sky. They make everything beautiful.” We play in their leaves, we swing from their branches. We pick apples (and other fruit). They are homes to animals. They give us shade. They help keep our homes cooler in the summer and protect us from weather in the winter. A tree is nice – so go plant one. I wasn’t a huge fan of this book when we first received it years ago, but it has completely grown on me and now looking at it in comparison to other books out there, I appreciate the beauty in this book and understand the reason it won the Caldecott in 1957.
The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward
A very sweet book with outstanding illustrations about some of the jobs that trees do – from feeding and sheltering animals, providing oxygen and being a place for children to play. Short and poetic, but great for explaining the role of trees to a young child.
Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter (#nfpb2014)
This is the inspiring story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977 and later won the Nobel Peace Prize. After Kenya gained their independence in the ’60s, commercial farming took root but devastated local farming. Life became incredibly difficult when women had to walk miles to get the wood necessary to cook their food and heat their homes. Wangari planted seedlings and then had village women plant the trees and take care of them. These were “seeds of hope.” Women all over Africa began to plant trees. This book is accessible for young readers and especially powerful after having the more detailed, but less accessible Planting the Trees of Kenya (a great book, but better for older kids).
The Inside Tree by Linda Smith
This is a very silly story about a man who winds up with a tree inside his house. I wouldn’t say that it is exactly “about” trees, but it is a funny look at how you can’t keep them contained.
***********************Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge*************************
I also wanted to note that Wangari’s Trees of Peace is the first of our books that we are counting towards our 50 non-fiction picture books. We are participating in the awesome challenge created by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy. Alyson has listed some awesome books coming out in January and February that I will definitely have to add to my “to read” list.
Generally, I will devote a full post to my non-fiction Wednesday selections, but I wanted to get a few in for the holiday. All of our non-fiction picture books that we read this year will be kept in a bookshelf on Goodreads. Make sure you stop over at Kid Lit Frenzy to see all the other nonfiction picture books showcased by other bloggers.
Great list of books! Thanks for sharing with everyone and linking up.
I had known of Arbor Day but not the birthday of trees. I’m not Jewish so this is new to me and interesting. Had it not been for this challenge, which I actually forgot about until today, I would not have found this wonderful blog. I’ll be back. I would like to learn more. Thanks.
A lot of people don’t know about Tu b’shevat, but it is a really beautiful holiday. I’m glad that you found my blog and I’m definitely going to have to look through yours more – it’s pretty amazing!