Denton is a Tree City USA and our annual Denton Redbud Festival also serves as an Arbor Day celebration. This year’s Redbud Festival will take place on April 23 at the Civic Center, and there will be plants and trees aplenty.
April is the month we celebrate Earth Day, bringing our attention to all the living flora and fauna on Earth. April is also National Poetry Month. This month’s picks hit all the bases.
Both a memoir and a plan to save the rainforests, Guardians of the Trees: A Journey of Hope through the Healing of the Planet (Kinari Webb, Flatiron Books, 2021, 287 pages, $27.99) is a gripping account of a most unusual life.
Being raised in a commune, moving to Borneo on a whim to study orangutans, experiencing a spiritual awakening, becoming a doctor, experiencing a life-threatening event, and deciding to save the planet are all part of Webb’s life. When she realized that the destruction of the forest was essentially the result of a need for money for health emergencies, she set up a health care system that involves the communities surrounding the forest.
His “radical eavesdropping” plan succeeded. It’s hard to put this book down because the incredible events in Webb’s life are hard to believe and because she writes with style and passion.
Who knew orchards have such a fascinating history! The book Taming Fruit: How Orchards Transformed the Land, Provided Sanctuary and Inspired Creativity (Bernd Brunner, Greystone Books, 2021, 304 pages, $29.95) covers so many aspects of fruit trees. From wild growth caused by wind and animals, to growing gardens to provide a cool sanctuary and delicious fruit, to disappearing into wild growth – it’s all covered. There is also a discussion of how royalty and commoners differed in their approach to fruit trees, and how artists were and are inspired by this natural beauty. Really worth reading.
Starting with our senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, and including a sixth sense, Peter Wohlleben explores our relationship with trees in his latest book. The heartbeat of trees: embracing our ancient connection to forests and nature (Wohlleben, Greystone Books, 2021, 264 pages, $26.95) is written by a forester whose interaction with trees is deep and long-standing. It combines research with experience to increase our awareness of the value of trees for our well-being, as well as the interaction of all aspects of nature. Humans are part of nature and must work to save it, because it is also about saving ourselves.
A tree that has a particular history is The Gravity Tree: The True Story of a Tree that Inspired the World (Anna Crowley Redding, illustrated by Yas Imamura, Harper, 2021, 40 pages, $17.99). An apple tree at Isaac Newton’s was his favorite place to read and think. When the bubonic plague hit London he was kicked out of college and while he was reading an apple fell from the tree (it didn’t hit him in the head). She led this imaginative genius to lay down the laws of universal gravity!
Isaac and the tree became famous, and many scientists visited the tree for inspiration. Although the tree fell in a storm, a new tree grew from the roots. There are descendants of the tree all over the world. The closest to us is planted at Dade Middle School in Dallas.
Vegetables are not at the top of the list of favorite foods for many children. What if they grew their own? Plant a garden in room 6 (Caroline Arnold, Charlesbridge, 2022, 40 pages, $16.99) is a photographic essay of a kindergarten class who plants a garden and then eats the harvest. The step-by-step process is photographed through the many weeks it takes to go from seed to edible plant. The children in the class are actively involved and specific information is provided to replicate the experience. Additional information, including online sources and books for further reading, can be found at the end of the book. Arnold’s photos are clear and attractive, engaging the reader.
This Is Our Magical Garden: Fresh Poems from a School Garden (Allan Wolf, illustrated by Daniel Duncan, Candlewick Press, 2022, 48 pages, $18.99) contains a wealth of delightful poems on every conceivable aspect of school gardening. My favorites are “The Secret Ingredient” on garden herbs, “The Three Sisters” on corn, beans and squash, “The FBI of Compost”, which is a hilarious biological study, and “Someone Took the Garden Tools “, which tugs at the heart.
The illustrator obviously absorbed each poem, as the images range from humor to biologically accurate renderings to beauty. Wolf provided a teaching suggestion for each of the poems at the end of the book.
I recently learned that dandelions are an important food source for bees, so I’m going to have to stop picking off everyone I see. Moving words about a flower (KC Hayes, illustrated by Barbara Chotiner, Charlesbridge, 2022, 40 pages, $16.99) motivates me even more to give them a place in my little part of the world. After a heavy rain, a small sprout emerges in the crack of a sidewalk in a city. A dandelion emerges and grows, and in the fall the seeds scatter and three land in a field far away. One survives and it produces seeds that travel to a new home.
The design of the book is fascinating. Words splash across the pages, mimicking actions in the text. The illustrations are vivid and readers young and old will enjoy them. The flower’s life cycle is repeated over two pages at the end of the book, along with additional information for older readers.
Lucy Cousins is known for her bold illustrations and simple text in books that appeal to young readers. A good place (Cousins, Candlewick Press, 2022, 40 pages, $17.99) is the story of four insects looking for a safe place to live together. Every place they find has flaws until a butterfly leads them to a garden where there are flowers for the bee, leaves for the ladybug, a pond for the dragonfly and a dead log for the beetle. Who could ask for anything else?
Tim Hopgood is a British author and illustrator. His latest book for crossing the pond, My Great Outdoor Book (Hopgood, Candlewick Studio, 2022, 118 pages, $19.99) is, indeed, a big book. The book is oversized and illustrations pop off the page in colors that match the season. In this collection of activities, recipes, poems and information about the four seasons, there is something for everyone. This is a book to dive into and enjoy for several weeks, not read cover to cover.
As one season slips into the next, there are activities and rituals that mark each season. First and Last: The Changing Seasons (Leda Schubert, illustrated by Clover Robin, Candlewick Press, 2022, 48 pages, $18.99) begins with spring, highlighting what will be the last activities of winter and what we will do first in spring. This pattern is followed for each of the seasons and would be a good activity to do in class. Using collage in illustrations can also inspire a good art project for students to illustrate their own activities.
Older readers will find more evocative poetry in Marshmallow clouds: two poets at play among figures of speech (Ted Kooser and Connie Wanek, illustrated by Richard Jones, Candlewick Press, 2022, 72 pages, $19.99). Arranged in four sections using the elements of fire, water, air and earth, the poets truly play with language and stimulate the reader’s imagination. The meaning is not always immediately clear, taking the reader on a journey to unlock the poem’s deepest levels. The illustrations are vague, to allow the reader to interpret the poem without visual certainty.
The cycle of life mingles with a gentle message of care in I will take care of you (Maria Loretta Giraldo, illustrated by Nicoletta Bertelle, Blue Dot Kids Press, 2022, 32 pages, $18.95). Once upon a time there was a small seed, alone, but the Earth, the Sky and the Water nourished it until it became a tree. A bird nested there and when a seed from the tree fell on dry ground, the bird carried it to fertile ground. The interconnectedness of nature is wonderfully captured in this simple text, with huge colorful images.
Board books are harder to create than you might think. The trick is to provide enough stimulus without overdoing the text. Birds: log book for small children (Ruth Musgrave, National Geographic Kids, 2022, 26 pages, $7.99) combines spectacular photos with minimal text to introduce toddlers to common and unusual birds. Actions such as grabbing food, bathing and stealing are highlighted. The design is very attractive.
What’s more attractive than a baby animal? When a baby is announced at a zoo, people flock to see it and there are contests to name it. Little Kids First Big Book of Baby Animals (Maya Myers, National Geographic Kids, 2022, 128 pages, $14.99) explores animals in the wild. There’s an introduction for adults to explain the structure of the book, and a map, tips for parents, a glossary and additional resources can be found at the end.
Children are first introduced to baby mammals and birds, baby reptiles and amphibians, and baby fish, octopuses and insects. The book is then organized by geographic land types: grassland, water, mountain and desert, forest and polar. There’s so much to absorb, you want to take it in sections. It is good to browse before and after a trip to a zoo or safari exhibit.
Check out the Denton Public Library for these books and more. Our local Barnes & Noble will have a display of these books and others related to the theme. Patchouli Joe’s Books & Indulgences will carry a few.