The Gift of the Tree — Perfect Picture Book Friday

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.”


25 thoughts on “The Gift of the Tree — Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. Oh – Beth, I love this. About 45 min. from where we live is For-Mar Nature Preserve that had two oak trees over 400 years old (yes that’s correct). They figure they were sprouting acorns when Columbus sailed. These trees were jaw-dropping MAMMOTHS. One tree eventually fell (across a road) during a bad windstorm so they were finally able to count the rings. The remaining tree had one huge limb break, but the rest still stood. That’s at least 15 years ago. I don’t know if it’s still there.

    1. That is so wonderful to even IMAGINE — seeing those trees must be awe-inspiring. One of the poems I mentioned, Ted Wells’ “To an Oak Tree” marvels at all that the tree has seen in its many years of life — that is what hearing about those trees at For-Mar Nature Preserve does for me. Thank you so much for telling me about them.

  2. This book brings the movie The Lion King to my mind. Mainly for the intro song. This tree does it’s part in the circle of life from beginning, during life and even in its fall.

  3. Patricia Nozell

    Lovely choice, Beth, for a chilly autumn day! And I love the advice about reading tree poems as an activity!

    1. Thank you, Patricia! I love Ted Wells’ poem “To an Oak Tree” so much and it seemed perfect for this book, then I started thinking about other tree poems. It’s great to be able to work poetry in with other reading and exploring activities.

  4. Oh, I realy like this book about the life cycle of a tree and how it contributes even after it dies. Beautiful cover and choice. We have a number of environmental books today. Funny how that happens. Great activity suggestions. Could it be used to help children with grief?

    1. Thank you, Pat — yes, it does seem that a theme sort of goes around PPBF totally unplanned sometimes (well, often!) doesn’t it? Wonderful idea to help children deal with grief using this book. It kind of reminds me of that “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” — “Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.” Thank you so much for suggesting that. I’m going to add a note to my review.

  5. What a beautiful book! We love trees here at my house. We have our own little forest and I love wandering around thru it. It changes every season. I like that this book brings in the “Rhythm” of life for a tree. My buddy, Walker, likes to eat the fallen, dead trees. He’s part of nature’s recycling team. Thanks for sharing this book and suggesting the Julie Andrews book. I’ll be checking out both!

    1. Thanks, Julie! I’ve just checked the online library catalogue and much to my surprise and delight, my branch has Meetings with Remarkable Trees, and it’s on the shelf. Guess where I’m going tomorrow?

  6. What a lovely idea for a book. I like that it’s so educational in a practical way but also addresses the cycle of life. It sounds like kids could learn a lot from this one. Thanks so much for adding it to our list! (And the bookmarks have shipped! Hopefully they’ll be here early next week and I can start sending them out to everyone!!! :))

    1. It’s a lovely book indeed.

      Great news about the bookmarks! I was telling one of the librarians at my branch about them yesterday.

  7. This is a great suggestion, Beth. I will add it to my library list. I’d like to be reading more nonfiction picture books and this one looks beautifully illustrated.

  8. I liked Susanna’s comment about this being a great book for educating kids on the cycle of life, and that they can learn so much from this. Lovely cover to. Thanks Beth.

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