Title: The Gift of a Tree
Author: Alvin Tresselt
Illustrator: Henri Sorensen
Publisher: New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1972, 1992
Genre: Picture book
Audience Age: 5 to 8 years old
Themes and topics: trees, life cycle of trees, nature, ecology, forest ecology, interdependence of species
Opening Sentences: It stood tall in the forest. For a hundred years or more the oak tree had grown and spread its shade.
Synopsis: Through exquisite paintings and simple, lyrical text, the book tells the story of the life and death of a huge oak tree – and also tells the story of how the dead tree enriches the entire forest, both flora and fauna, after it falls, and gradually decomposes, providing shelter for animals, food for bugs and fungi, and finally rich soil for acorns to sprout into new trees.
Activities/Resources: A good activity to show children how the decomposition process happens is composting. This link shows a fairly simple way to make a small compost bin that allows kids to see the progress of the composting process.
Planting trees is also a great activity – when I was a child, each grade four child received a tiny fir seedling. I nurtured my little sapling, and it grew to a glorious full and beautiful tree. The Sacramento Tree Foundation has suggestions for tree planting. Note: One should always check what varieties grow best in one’s own “neck of the woods.”
The National Science Teachers Association has a digital resource available for only 99 cents (American) with activities based on this book.
A more literary activity would be to read poems about trees, such as Trees by Joyce Kilmer, Loveliest of Trees by A.E. Housman, and To an Oak Tree by E.C. Wells, all found in Julie Andrews’ Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies.
EDITED TO ADD: As Pat Tilton mentioned in the comments, this book could also be used to help children understand dying and to deal with grief. Thank you for that suggestion, Pat!
Availability: Readily available (despite its age) in hardcover.
Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”