The Picture Book Buzz

Hello, Tree - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I've been really excited about featuring this stunning picture book. Though told through the voice of the tree, this informational fiction book is meticulously researched by both the author and illustrator. Accurately and sensitively portrayed, this poignant story provides a view of the power of forest fires and the equally strong resilience and tenacity of nature and humans.



Hello, Tree


Author: Ana Crespo


Illustrator: Dow Phumiruk


Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2021)


Ages: 4-8


Informational Fiction




Themes:

Fire, nature, loss, and rejuvenation.


Synopsis:

Inspired by the 2013 Black Forest fire and told from the viewpoint of a tree watching its home destroyed, Hello, Tree is about the kinship between humans and nature, and preservation of the environment.


It was a swallow who called it first.

“Fire’s coming!”

And the animals ran away.

Even the insects tried to flee.

The girl and her family left, too.

All I could do…was wait.


When a wildfire comes roaring into the forest, all the animals and humans flee. But all the tree can do is wait. Wait until many days and nights pass. Wait until the fire loses the battle. And wait until the forest is still before the forest can be reborn and the animals and the girl can come back.


Opening Lines:

I met the girl when

she was a baby…


and I was just a sapling.


What I LOVED about this book:

I love Ana Crespo's approach of telling the story of a wildfire through the perspective of a tree. It's unique and perhaps helpfully distancing for a young child who might too closely identify with a child or animal main character. And I love Dow Phumiruk's ability to bring a personality to the tree and show a delightful friendship with the little girl. That tea party is so precious!

Text © Ana Crespo, 2021. Image © Dow Phumiruk, 2021.


When one summer night, a lightning storm sparks a wildfire, the tree watches as the animals, birds, insects, and girl's family flees. Unable to move, the tree waits "as roaring flames breathed smoke into the sky. And left only a single star to wish upon." The lyrical, succinct, and calm text notes that rescue (firefighters) comes and "Many gray days and orange nights passed."

Text © Ana Crespo, 2021. Image © Dow Phumiruk, 2021.


Dow does a beautiful and sensitive job of creating her own narratives through the illustrations of people evacuating, arriving, and staying at a shelter. And the dedicated struggle of the firefighters as they save animals, lose structures and trees, but never surrender. She's taken an emotionally charged time, and gently showed us the helpers and hope,


I love how Ana describes the climax - "Until the fire lost the battle." - keeping the focus on the fire and nature, as the tree would experience or observe it.

Text © Ana Crespo, 2021. Image © Dow Phumiruk, 2021.


Even though this and the next spread and text portray a bleak stillness, the book proceeds with a focus on the resilience of nature and people. And wraps up with a touching, full circle ending - which I will leave you to discover.


This is a great mentor text on sensitively dealing with traumatic stories in picture books and creating a fun and informative illustrated timeline in the back matter of fiction picture books. Unfortunately, due to climate change, I think this book may be needed to help kids process and recover from such fires for many years to come. This is a great book, whether you live in an area prone to wildfires or not, to help develop an appreciation of our actions and our interconnection to nature.


Resources:

- what do you know about forest fires? How do they start? Is there anything good about them? What can we do to prepare or minimize their risk? Be sure to check out the wonderful back matter.

- explore some of Smokey the Bear's activities, coloring pages, and ranger badges (https://smokeybearlive.org/resources/lesson-plans) and/or (https://smokeybear.com/en/smokey-for-kids).

- plant your own friend, tree or shrub, in your yard or join a planting day in your community.

- read Odin: Hero Dog of the Fires by Emma Bland Smith and We Will Live in This Forest Again by Gianna Marino. Even though the main characters are different, how do they each show patience and resilience?


If you missed it, be sure to check out Monday's interview with Ana Crespo (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.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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