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The Picture Book Buzz

Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I remember my kids fascination with the fables about how animals got their stripes, shells, or why spiders made webs. Fantastical stories explaining natural phenomena, and often the wilder the better, dominated our library piles for many years. Inexplicably, since none of us really like spiders, the Anasi fables were some of their favorites.

If you like these "How and Why" fables and stories about birds and nature, then you will enjoy this story. It is the second such picture book from Annemarie Riley Guertin. Her first was How the Finch Got His Colors (2018).

Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves

Author: Annemarie Riley Guertin

Illustrator: Helena Pérez García

Publisher: Familius (2019)

Ages: 5-8



Modern fable, kindness, winter, and birds.


One autumn evening, Little Redbird settled down for one last sleep before flying south for winter. As he slept, a strong gust of wind shook him from his cozy nest . . .

. . . Little Redbird hurts his wing and misses his chance to fly south for the winter. As he searches for a new home amongst the trees, he begins to realize that not all trees are fit for the winter cold. As more and more trees refuse him shelter, too preoccupied with their preparations for the frost, Little Redbird fears the worst. That is, until he comes across a friendly bunch of evergreens.

In the spirit of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince, Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves is a timeless story of kindness and why the fir, spruce, and juniper trees are evergreen all winter long.

Opening Lines:

One, autumn evening, Little Redbird settled down for one last

sleep before flying south for the winter.

As she slept, a strong gust of wind shook her from her cozy nest in

the eaves in the barn.

Little Redbird tumbled out and fell onto the cold, hard ground.

Why I like the book:

I always find it fascinating how people and cultures explain natural phenomena. Since many such fables or tales revolve around African animals, it was fun to find one about an animal we see in our own yards. It's always interesting to try and explain why some birds don't migrate with the other species. Why the Anna hummingbird remains in the PNW during the winter or the Cardinal (the Little Redbird) remains along the East Coast.

When the wind knocks the Little Redbird out of a tree and breaks its wing, the bird is unable to fly south. So, it attempts to find a safe place to wait out winter and heal. Unfortunately, the deciduous trees are unable or unwilling to help. The birch feels too fragile; unable to support a nest. The oak refuses to help, convinced the bird would simply eat all its hard-earned nuts. And the maple is too involved in changing colors to worry about anyone else.

Text © Annemarie Riley Guertin, 2019 . Image © Helena Pérez García, 2019.

However, the fir, spruce, and juniper offer the Little Redbird comfort, shelter, and food. When Frost Queen sees their caring and generosity, she instructs her son - Jack Frost - not to ever touch the leaves of these trees; allowing them to remain green (or silver) all year long. And that's why evergreen trees don't lose their leaves in the winter.

Text © Annemarie Riley Guertin, 2019 . Image © Helena Pérez García, 2019.

To repay the fir, spruce, and juniper for their kindness, the Cardinals remain through the winter; cheery splotches of red in a cold, white landscape. Helena's vibrant illustrations, especially of the red bird on evergreen boughs or against the snow, are striking.

The only downside to the book is the characterization of the bird as female; since only the male cardinals are red. However, this could be used as a means of opening a discussion about the dichromatism of birds. Overall, this is a fun new fable explaining why cardinals don't migrate and evergreens don't loose their leaves. A book that earns its place alongside other fables.


- read the original tale (, how do they differ? What did Annemarie change? If you were to rewrite the tale, what would you have changed?

- read other origin fables, Native American (, Aesop's Fables and other Cultures' Fables ( How are they all similar? What are the differences where they overlap?

- write or draw your own fable explaining how an animal came to be;

- do leaf rubbings of deciduous and evergreen leaves. Can you identify the trees in your area? or

- make a list of the animals and birds which remain in your area through the winter. How do they cope with the weather?

If you missed Annemarie Guertin's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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