Redwoods by Jason Chin

Redwoods by Jason Chin

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Publishing: Neal Porter, New York, 2009.

Description: A little boy finds a book on the subway that literally transports him into what he is reading. Dinosaurs appear outside the windows, he finds himself sitting between two Romans, and then when he emerges from the subway he finds himself in a forest filled with redwoods, able to explore every aspect as the text describes it. In this clever blend of fantasy and nonfiction, readers are absorbed into the material-a feat not many nonfiction works can claim.

Programming: There are many great scientific concepts found in this book. Students could learn/review the parts of a tree (canopy, branches, roots, trunk, etc), or they could discuss symbiosis and how the redwoods help other plants and animals in the forest ecosystem. The end also has a note about the dangers of disappearing redwoods and how it affects the rest of the ecosystem, making for a great tie-in to conservation efforts.

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The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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Publishing: Penguin, 2010

Description: I picked up this book simply because I knew it was somewhat controversial. A little boy loves the tree in his backyard, and the tree helps to keep him company by providing a place to hide out, and apples to eat. The boy grows up and goes away, and the tree is lonely. The boy comes back on several occasions, on each one taking something from the tree: its apples to sell, its branches to build a house, and finally, its trunk to make a boat. The tree gives selflessly and the boy takes selfishly, not even at the end realizing how much he has taken. There are certainly some morals that could be drawn about love and sacrifice, but I can also see why so many find it disturbing, as the relationship is so one-sided it borders on abusive.

Programming: I think this story would pair nicely with Janice Mary Udry’s A Tree is Nice. The tree gives the boy so many things in the story that students might discuss what trees do for us (provide shade, fruit, oxygen, wood, homes for animals, etc.) Students might make bird feeders to hang on the trees, or do rubbings of different kinds of tree leaves. They might also draw and label the parts of the tree and tell which ones the boy uses.

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry

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Publishing: Harper Collins, 1956, (renewed 1984)

Awards: Caldecott Medal Winner

Description: This book lists the various aspects and benefits of trees. Illustrations alternate between black and white and color, and most are simple line drawings in sort of an impressionist style.

Programming: This would be a good book to read on Earth Day and send each student home with a sapling. Or, students might go on a nature walk and collect different types of leaves to share and discover different types of trees.

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan

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Publishing: Lothian,  Melbourne, 2001

Description: This seems to be a story of those horrible, no good, bad days that everyone has and how to keep going. The text and picture combo seems a bit advanced and may be better for more experienced readers who could make guesses about what the red tree at the end symbolizes.

Programming: Because this book lacks a traditional narrative, I wasn’t quite sure what to say about it other than the fact that it could spark some discussions about hope, inspiration, and perseverance. This resource pack has some excellent ideas for students of all ages: http://d1mliecp54ib0h.cloudfront.net/Documents/learning/4732_13228_TheRedTree-TeacherResourcePack.pdf