Title: The Wisdom of Trees, How Trees Work Together to form a Natural Kingdom
Author & Illustrator: Lita Judge
Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2021
Ages: 6-11 (and middle school)
Genre: narrative nonfiction/poetry
Themes: trees, forests, ecology, communication, poetry, community, ecosystem, history
A Secret Kingdom
I am a single beech,
but I am not alone.
The story of a tree is a story of community, communication, and cooperation. Although trees may seem like silent, independent organisms, they form a network buzzing with life: they talk, share food, raise their young, and offer protection. Trees thrive on diversity, learn from their ancestors, and give back to their communities. Trees not only sustain life on our planet—they can also teach us important lessons about patience, survival, and teamwork.
We clean the air and seed the clouds, we drench the thirsty land with rain. We are like wizards.
Why I like this book:
I am on a bit of a tree kick at the moment. Redwood forest bathing has kept me sane during the pandemic. And some of my best friends gave me a gorgeous book for my birthday last week, The Forests of California by Obi Kauffman. So I was so happy to follow up Gianna’s book last week with another extraordinary tree book by a friend, published this week. Lita talks of the inspiration for this book being many years ago when she was hiking in England and sat under a thousand-year old oak tree overlooking a Medieval castle. I understand how inspiring that moment was, and I confess I have slipped tree-facts into several of my novel WIPs because I am equally inspired by their communication.
Through a series of fourteen poems, lush illustrations and extensive but very accessible factual sidebars, The Wisdom of Trees offers a fascinating exploration of the hidden communities trees create to strengthen themselves and others. Each poem penned by Lita Judge is a warm welcome from trees to their world. These poems focus on different aspects of trees. In a column on the right, Lita offers a description of the tree featured in the image on the left, using it to transition to a more complete explanation of the current topic. Within this conversational commentary are specific details and sometimes named scientists and their discoveries.
I thought I knew quite a bit about the fungi of trees, such as a tree in need sending distress signals to its neighbors, but I learned so much more here. Deep underground trees and fungi work in tandem assisting each other in essential life-sustaining exchanges of food. Fungi pass along messages from one tree to another. Chemicals are launched into the air when trees feel they under attack from unwanted insects or munching animals. Sometimes those chemicals attract other insects who will eliminate the threat. It’s almost like something out of fiction to discover giant, tall trees in a rain forest maintain their own climate while cleansing the air and dampening the dangers of global warming.
The illustrations were created in watercolor and pencil and the tree portraits are intricate in detail, e.g. wasps moving like aircraft to land on caterpillars destroying leaves on an elm tree, or a wolf moving silently through a dormant stand of silver birch in winter. There are also smaller illustrations within the sidebars on the right. The illustrations enhance the text perfectly. This is an outstanding nonfiction picture book that should be added to all library collections.
We Are the Ghosts
My limbs and needles are gone, and the warm body of a newborn deer comes to rest within the ghost of my great trunk that once touched the sky. But underneath the soft litter of fallen needles and dark soil, I still live, surrounded by my kingdom with their willingness to give.
There are ten, yes ten pages at the back given over to expanding on each poem/segment, as well as notes on fire suppression, and how we can help our forests.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.