Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Picture Book Biographies about People and Trees

I love sharing picture book biographies with my students, as they make for great, short read alouds and often spur a lot of interesting conversations and discussions. I realized this week that several of the picture book biographies that I share with students during the year are related by a connection to trees and to nature, so I thought I would share them as a text set.


Seed by Seed: the legend and legacy of John "Appleseed" Chapman by Esme Raji Codell and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins. I always try to share this book with students around Johnny Appleseed's birthday (Sept. 26th). I love how the focus of this biography is on five life lessons that can be drawn from his life and example. I think this makes it easier for students to connect to the story as well as to think about how to make an impact in their own life.


The Tree Lady: the true story of how one tree-loving woman changed a city forever by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry. This book is a new favorite of mine and introduces the reader to Kate Sessions and her work growing and restoring trees in early 1900s San Diego. The repetitive structure of the text (compare / contrast) makes this book ideal for reading aloud and shows off the importance of being true to yourself and not just following what everyone else is doing or saying.

  

Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson and illustrated by Sonia Lynn Sadler, Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola, and Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter. These three biographies  focus on the incredible work on Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. I used to prefer sharing  Planting the Trees of Kenya with my students because it goes a little more in-depth about her actions and some of the difficulties she faced, but Seeds of Change is my new favorite. They are all great books and emphasize the same lesson that one committed person can make a difference in their environment.


The Mangrove Tree: planting trees to feed families (2011) by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. This poem / narrative biography features Gordon H. Sato and his work to grove mangrove tree forests along the coast of Eritrea. It is an interesting story. The "poem" part, however, I could do without, as its "This is the house that Jack built" format really did not do anything for me or for the story. The book has a detailed author's note about Mr. Soto and his work, including web links and a bibliography.


The People Who Hugged Trees adapted by Deborah L. Rose and illustrated by Birgitta Saflund. I include this book because it is on theme, but I have some problems with it. The story details the struggle of a group of people in India 300 years ago who face off against the mighty Maharajah in an attempt to protect the trees. At the end of this picture book, they succeed and have a big celebration, but the historical note at the end reveals that in fact the protesters failed and more than 300 of them were massacred. I find the choice to change the ending of the true story odd, and I think younger kids might be very disturbed by finding out the actual truth. I do think this could make for a really interesting discussion with older students, however.


Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday Challenge is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and is a weekly roundup of educator blogs that are sharing nonfiction picture books. Click the link to check out other nonfiction posts.



9 comments:

  1. I love that you have such a full list on one theme. Trees are awesome and so are the people who are working to grow more of them.

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    1. Thanks, Crystal! Agreed. And I like that the students can see that different people in different places and times can have a similar idea about how to make their world a better place.

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  2. Great list. I am introducing The Tree Lady to my class on Friday and look forward to it! I would also like to get my hands on Planting the Trees of Kenya

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    1. I highly recommend it, Carrie. I plan to read Planting the Trees of Kenya next week with my students.

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  3. Wonderful titles you have here. You may also want to include Kadir Nelson's Mama Miti and The Mangrove Tree. Will pin a few of the ones you have here as we are currently collecting tree-themed titles for a bibliography that we're publishing next year for the Asian Festival of Children's Content.

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    1. Oh wow, wonderful! I love Kadir Nelson's work and didn't realize he had written a book about Wangari too. I've put in a request for it from the library. Glad I could add a few more titles to your list - looking forward to seeing it!

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  4. I always thought Tree Lady and Seed by Seed would work well together. Love your whole text set. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Alyson! It was funny to me, because I share these books at different times of the year that I really hadn't considered them all together until I started brainstorming for this post.

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  5. Seed by Seed looks beautiful, and I haven't seen The People Who Hugged the Trees - which sounds as though it would be a nice nmatch with Aani and the Tree Huggers by written by Jeannine Atkins, illustrated by Venantius J. Pinto (Lee & Low Books, 1995/2013)

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