SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY from the Unitarian Universalist Association’s on line Curricula Circle of Trees, part of the Tapestry of Faith Program
Julie Simon, Katie Tweedie Covey, and Pat Kahn; Developmental Editor, Judith A. Frediani
Circle of Trees is a multigenerational program of eight workshops that nurture deep connection with trees, nature, and all of earth’s living creatures. The program uses trees as an entry point to understand and connect with life on earth. Across many cultures, trees are recognized as a symbol for life on earth—for example, the biblical Tree of Life. Even young children understand trees as sustainers of life, fundamental engines of life on earth as we know it. Trees create and purify the air we breathe. They house and provide resources for myriad creatures, including humans. They bring us peace, joy, and delight.
A Tree for All Seasons by Robin Bernard. Readers will climb through the pages of this vivid photographic book to explore the parts of a tree and understand their functions. In summer, the tree sunbathes and seethes with animal life. With autumn comes the flowing sap that makes maple syrup for pancakes. As the tree’s leaves begin to fall, winter is coming on and the tree is nearly dormant. Spectacular photographs and fun, informative text not only answer questions about how trees work and why seasons change but also make this book an invitation to observe and enjoy nature and its many wonders.
A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe. This charming tale of an overgrown pine that was always passed over for Christmas, and what his woodland friends do to help him, is sure to become a holiday classic for years to come.
Aani and the Tree Huggers by Jeannine Atkins. Based on true events in northern India, this is the story of a little girl’s bravery. One day, Aani hears the roaring of the tree cutters. Hoping to get the workers to put down their saws and hatchets, Aani and the village women explain that the trees provide food, fuel, and homes for animals, but to no avail. Finally, Aani wraps her body around one of the trees, with surprising results. Distinctive color illustrations, inspired by Indian miniature painting, accompany the moving story.
America’s Famous and Historic Trees by Jeffery G. Meyer. Like many residents of Jacksonville, Florida, the Jeffrey Meyers family liked to picnic under the city’s magnificent Treaty Live Oak. When their toddler handed them an acorn from the tree, Meyers, a nurseryman, planted it in the back yard. That acorn was the inspiration for an immensely popular project, America’s Famous and Historic Trees, sponsored by American Forests, the country’s oldest nonprofit conservation organization. In this fascinating book, Meyers tells the stories of 17 historic trees, describes their role in America’s history, and tells how their seeds were collected and their offspring propagated.
Ancient Trees: Trees That Live for a Thousand Years by Anna Lewington and Edward Parker. Trees from all around the world are represented. Parker’s many beautiful, full-color images contribute a great deal, but what makes this book especially interesting is a discussion of the roles these trees have played through the ages in human religions, myths, economies, and everyday life. (This copy is out of print, but used copies are readily available.)
Be a Friend to Trees by Patricia Lauber. Why should you be a friend to trees? Because they are a valuable natural resource. People depend on trees for food, and animals depend on trees for food and shelter. But most important, we depend on trees because they add oxygen, a gas we all need, to the air. While trees give us many wonderful products, we must also protect them because we can’t live without them.
Companions in Wonder by Julie Dunlap and Stephen Kellert. Rachel Carson’s classic 1956 essay “Help Your Child to Wonder” urged adults to help children experience the “sense of wonder” that comes only from a relationship with nature. This anthology gathers personal essays recounting adventures great and small with children in the natural world. The authors—writing as parents, teachers, mentors, and former children—describe experiences that range from bird watching to an encounter with an apple butter-loving grizzly bear. By turns lyrical, comic, and earnest, these writings guide us to closer connections with nature and with the children in our lives, for the good of the planet and for our own spiritual and physical well-being.
The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry. The author and artist Lynne Cherry journeyed deep into the rain forests of Brazil to write and illustrate this gorgeous picture book. One day, a man exhausts himself trying to chop down a giant kapok tree. While he sleeps, the forest’s residents, including a child from the Yanomamo tribe, whisper in his ear about the importance of trees and how “all living things depend on one another” . . . and it works. Cherry’s lovingly rendered colored pencil and watercolor drawings of all the “wondrous and rare animals” evoke the lush rain forests, and the stunning endpapers feature world maps bordered by tree porcupines, emerald tree boas, and dozens more fascinating creatures.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Luov. Never before in history have children been so plugged in—and so out of touch with the natural world. In this groundbreaking work, child advocacy expert Richard Luov directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation—he calls it “nature deficit”—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as rises in obesity, Attention Deficit Disorder, and depression. Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This alienation damages children and shapes adults, families, and communities. There are solutions, though, and they’re right in our own backyards.
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Long before saving the earth became a global concern, Dr. Seuss, speaking through his character the Lorax, warned against mindless progress and the danger it posed to the earth’s natural beauty.
Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli. Through artful prose and beautiful illustrations, Donna Jo Napoli and Kadir Nelson tell the true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as “Mama Miti,” who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization that has empowered many people to mobilize and combat deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation. Today more than 30 million trees have been planted throughout Mama Miti’s native Kenya, and in 2004 she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Muta Maathai has changed Kenya tree by tree—and with each page turned, children will realize their own ability to positively impact the future.
The Meaning of Trees by Fred Hageneder. The tree is beloved as Mother Nature’s visible symbol of power and grace. This book is a beautiful celebration of their lore and spirit, botany and history. Genera from aspen to willow are captured in 70 dramatic photographs that illustrate their brilliant seasonal transformations. Featuring 50 different types of tree, this informative compendium describes each by way of botanical qualities; medicinal uses for their leaves, bark, and wood; cultural symbolism; magical associations; and so much more.
Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham. With this astonishing collection of tree portraits, Thomas Pakenham has produced a new kind of tree book. The trees are grouped according to their characteristics; roughly half are ancient native trees in the United Kingdom, while the rest are exotic newcomers from Europe.
My Mom Hugs Trees by Robyn Ringgold. “Do you think your mom does strange things? Well, my mom hugs trees, rescues bugs, sings with birds, and talks to flowers. Come meet my mom. You might end up doing strange things too!” Delightful illustrations and poetic text hold the attention of young readers and make My Mom Hugs Trees a perfect “read to me” book. The story reflects a love and enjoyment of life. Mom, with her strange habits, will foster children’s connection to nature.
Myths of the Sacred Trees by Moyra Caldecott. Essential to life on earth since the beginning of time, trees hold a special place in our collective consciousness: rooted in the earth, reaching skyward, nourished by the elements, and enlivened by the sap running through their veins, they provide a metaphor for what it means to be human.
The Night Tree by Eve Bunting. By moonlight in the quiet forest, a young boy and his family decorate their favorite tree with popcorn, apples, tangerines, and sunflower-seed balls as a gift for the animals of the woods. Sure to become a Christmas favorite, this beautifully illustrated story of a family’s unusual tradition brings to life the true spirit of Christmas.
Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel. “Dear Kids, A long time ago, when you were little, Mom and I took you to where we wanted to build a house. . . . I remember there was one tree, however, that the three of you couldn’t stop staring at . . .” After the family spares him from the builders, Steve the tree quickly works his way into their lives. He holds their underwear when the dryer breaks down, he’s there when Adam and Lindsay get their first crushes, and he’s the centerpiece at their outdoor family parties. With a surprising lack of anthropomorphizing, this is a uniquely poignant celebration of fatherhood, families, love, and change.
Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola. Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the Green Belt Movement, grew up in the highlands of Kenya, where fig trees cloaked the hills, fish filled the streams, and the people tended their bountiful gardens. But over many years, as more and more land was cleared, Kenya was transformed. When Wangari returned home from college in America, she found the village gardens dry, the people malnourished, and the trees gone. How could she alone bring back the trees and restore the gardens and the people?
Remarkable Trees of the World by Thomas Pakenham. Thomas Pakenham embarks on a five-year odyssey to most of the temperate and tropical regions of the world to photograph 60 trees of remarkable personality and presence: Dwarfs, Giants, Monuments, and Aliens; the lovingly tended miniature trees of Japan; the enormous strangler from India; and the 4,700-year-old “Old Methuselahs.” American readers will be fascinated by Pakenham’s first examination of North American trees, including the towering redwoods of Sequoia and Yosemite, the gaunt Joshua trees of Death Valley, and the bristlecone pines discovered in California’s White Mountains.
Sacred Trees: Spirituality, Wisdom and Well-Being by Nathaniel Altman. A heartfelt, profusely illustrated discussion of their history and meaning gives a new appreciation of trees’ special place in our lives. Observe how a multitude of cultures around the world have formed enduring bonds with trees, believing them possessed of a “life force.” Find out which are considered “cosmic” or “home to the gods,” which symbolize ancestral roots, and which represent fertility. Your commitment to their preservation will deepen and grow.
Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons. This book about nature and the changing seasons focuses on a young boy and a very special apple tree.
Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace by Jen Cullerton Johnson. This book brings to life the empowering story of Wangari Maathai, the first African woman, and environmentalist, to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Seeds of Change: Wangari’s Gifts to the World by Jen Cullerton Johnson. As a young girl in Kenya, Wangari Maathai was taught to respect nature. She grew up loving the land, plants, and animals that surrounded her—from the giant mugumo trees revered by her people, the Kikuyu, to the tiny tadpoles that swam in the river. Although most Kenyan girls were not educated, Wangari, curious and hardworking, was allowed to go to school, where her mind sprouted like a seed. She excelled at science and went on to study in the United States. After returning home, Wangari blazed a trail across Kenya, using her knowledge and compassion to promote the rights of her countrywomen and to help save the land, one tree at a time.
Someday a Tree by Eve Bunting. A family relaxes and engages in picnics, naps, storytelling, and plain fun under a gigantic old oak tree on their country property. One day, young Alice notices that the grass under the tree smells funny and is turning yellow. The oak’s leaves start to fall, even though it is spring. A tree doctor discovers that the soil has been poisoned, probably by illegally dumped chemicals. Neighbors pitch in: The poisoned dirt is carted off, the fire department sprays water, sacking is wrapped around top branches, and the telephone company loans poles from which to hang sunscreens. However, the tree dies despite the efforts to save it. Finally, Alice remembers her collection of acorns, which she rushes out and plants in healthy ground near the tree.
Tell Me Tree by Gail Gibbons. Featuring a special section on how children can make a tree identification book of their own, this is a bright and colorful introduction to trees, leaves, and their inner workings in nature.
The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grownups by Gina Ingoglia. The birds and the bees and the flowers and the . . . TREES! How do trees grow? Why do leaves change? What kind of tree is that? The acclaimed Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s newest guide answers kids’ (and parents’) tree-related questions in an easy-to-understand way. It features 33 different trees that grow in North America, from rural Georgia to the streets of New York City to the California suburbs. Each profile includes a beautiful botanical watercolor illustration by author Gina Ingoglia showing the tree as it appears in a particular season, as well as life-size depictions of its leaf, flower, and seed. Readers of all ages will be in awe over the wonderful world of trees.
The Tree in the Ancient Forest by Carol Reed-Jones. A delightful introduction to the habitat in and around old trees. From lowly fungi to majestic owls, the book connects the web of nature. Repetitive, cumulative verse—a poetic technique that children universally enjoy—aptly portrays the amazing ways in which the inhabitants of the forest depend on one another for survival. It includes a guide to the forest creatures and their interrelationships, and a concise explanation of an ancient forest.
The Tree of Life: Baobob by Barbara Bash. According to African legend, each animal was given a tree to plant by the Great Spirit. When the hyena was assigned the baobab tree, the careless animal planted it upside down—”and that is why its branches look like gnarled roots.” With this intriguing bit of folklore, Bash proceeds to unfold the life cycle of this majestic bastion of the African savannah. Frequently measuring 60 feet tall and 40 feet across, these giants “outlive nearly everything on earth”—their life span is more than 1,000 years. In this compelling and moving account, the baobab stands proud and stately as a vivid panoply of activity unfolds within its sprawling branches. Finally, an old tree dies and “collapses in on itself, a melted heap of ruins.” A seed sprouts, a new baobab tree begins to grow, and life continues. One of nature’s great lessons is recreated dramatically in this stirring book.
Tree, Leaves and Bark (Take Along Guide series) by Diane Burns. This introduction to the world of insects, caterpillars, and butterflies teaches kids how to identify the tiny creatures they find and fun other facts. The book offers both safety tips and interesting educational activities, and color illustrations enhance the presentation.
Trees: A Visual Guide by Tony Rodd and Jennifer Stackhouse. Beautifully illustrated and designed, this gorgeous reference book explores the world of trees from every perspective—from the world’s great forests to the lifespan of a single leaf. The volume illustrates how trees grow and function, looks at their astounding diversity and adaptations, documents the key role they play in ecosystems, and explores the multitude of uses to which we put trees—from timber and pharmaceuticals to shade and shelter.
Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter. As a young girl growing up in Kenya, Wangari was surrounded by trees. But years later when she returns home, she is shocked to see whole forests being cut down, and she knows that soon all the trees will be destroyed. So Wangari decides to do something—and she starts by planting nine seedlings in her own backyard. And as they grow, so do her plans. This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a shining example of how one woman’s passion, vision, and determination inspired great change.
Whispers From the Woods by Sandra Kynes. A walk in the woods makes it easy to understand the awe and reverence that our ancestors had for trees. It speaks to something deep and primal within us—something we don’t hear as often as we should. By exploring a variety of mysteries and traditions of trees, Whispers from the Woods helps readers get reacquainted with the natural world and find their place in the earth’s rhythm.