Trees were once considered sacred and awe-inspiring: Oaks were worshiped by the European Druids, redwoods were a part of American Indian ritual, and baobabs a part of African tribal life. Ancient Chinese records describe the Ginkgo biloba as a living fossil tree. The ancient Romans and scholars during the Middle Ages venerated trees in their literature.
Today we often admire trees for utilitarian reasons: They produce oxygen, clean the soil, control noise pollution, and slow storm water runoff. The products derived from them, such as paper, continue to be vital to modern society, despite our increasingly virtual world. Trees, of course, provide us shade, and shelter many species of birds, animals, and insects. But they are also aesthetically pleasing.
Arbor Day, a holiday dedicated to everything about trees, celebrates them as both living resources and powerful symbols. To reflect on trees on this day, consider some of these 2018 books, mostly intended for children.
‘Arbor Day Tree’ by Dee Smith
A perfect book for this holiday is the short tale “Arbor Day Tree,” with its rhyming style. A bear is excited because he is going to plant an Arbor Day Tree. Readers join the bear as he does so. Adding to its charm is a lovely picture with the metaphor “A tree in nature is a bright luminous star.” At the end of the book are directions to make an Arbor Day stand-up tree.
‘Arbor Day Tree’
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
‘The Things That I Love About Trees’ by Chris Butterworth
This book is a combination of poetry, science, and gorgeous pictures; the illustrations enhance the narrative. Written from the point of view of a child, the book follows a tree throughout a year, with the child’s observations in big type followed by brief, factual statements set in smaller type.
For example, the child says, “Summer trees are shady and so full of leaves that when the wind blows, they swish like the sea.” Then follows an explanation of how leaves use sunshine to make food that the tree needs to grow. Finally, watercolors illustrate the passage of time.
At the end of the book, outdoor play is suggested with the a list of activities, such as building a hideout, making pictures and shapes with fallen leaves, and observing the creatures that live in trees. This book will enhance the young reader’s appreciation of trees and how they change with each season.
‘The Things That I Love About Trees’
32 pages; Hardcover, $15.99
‘Everything You Need for a Treehouse’ by Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes
Two children and a dog stand on a forest floor and look up as they imagine building a treehouse. The children discuss practical plans: They need blueprints, a hammer, nails, a saw, and a hard hat. Then their imaginations soar as the children envision a round fort reached by a circular staircase, a library, and a camping site. The pictures are fascinating and really will hold a child’s interest.
This book will support a child’s creativity, so important and often neglected today.
‘Everything You Need for a Treehouse’
Carter Higgins and Emily Hughes
40 pages; hardcover, $17.99
‘Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness’ by Dr. Qing Li
Although aimed at adults, Qing Li’s book can help the whole family. It describes “Shinrin-yoku,” a term that means forest bathing or taking in the forest atmosphere. Forest bathing developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have established a robust body of scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest, which is discussed in this book.
Whether convinced by the research or not, the reader can take away the simple idea that visiting a natural area and walking in a relaxed way has a calming effect. This book is just the thing to inspire the reader to connect with nature and remind us that, as Joyce Kilmer wrote in his famous poem “Trees”: “I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree. … Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”
‘Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness’
Dr. Qing Li
320 pages; hardcover $20
Linda Wiegenfeld is a retired teacher. She can be reached for comments or suggestions at LWiegenfeld@aol.com