The Picture Book Buzz

Moon Tree - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I love finding nonfiction picture books which find playful, unusual ways to tell an interesting story. To explain the remarkable story of a "moon tree," the book connects the actions of one boy whose dreams took the seeds to space, one forest researcher who grew the seedings, and one determined girl who discovered the forgotten tree. It's a story of one extraordinary journey which refused to be forgotten.

Moon Tree: The Story of One Extraordinary Tree


Author: Carolyn Bennett Fraiser


Illustrator: Simona Mulazzani


Publisher: Reycraft Books (2022)


Ages: 7-10


Nonfiction


Themes:

Curiosity, space travel, trees, research, and dreams.


Synopsis:

A little girl finds a sycamore tree named a “moon tree” and wonders why. When no one knows, her third grade class is determined to find the answer. Their quest leads them to NASA, an extraordinary boy who grew up to be an astronaut, a broken metal container, and a story more fascinating than they could have ever imagined.


Opening Lines:

In a forest of ordinary trees,


One sycamore

has a secret

few people know,

a story unearthed

in the stars.


It all begins...

with...


What I LOVED about this book:

Employing a lyrical, free verse style Carolyn Fraiser uses a great format to explain the secret of a tree by following Stuart Roosa (who we don't "officially" meet until the back matter) from "one ordinary boy... dashing among trees," to "one young man" saving trees from fires, to "one test pilot who races through the skies," to . . .

Text © Carolyn Bennett Fraiser, 2022. Image © Simona Mulazzani, 2022.


One NASA astronaut

gets his chance

to take one small step…

one giant leap…

and fly to the moon.


In his bag,

he packs some seeds

to honor men

who rescue trees.


Hundreds of seeds take flight…


Each phase of Stuart's life, and the tree's journey (which intermingle at this point), begins on the left side of a colorful two-page, full bleed spread and uses a short sentence on the right to encourage the reader to continue the story.


Once back on earth, and released from quarantine, the sycamore tree seed (and 499 others) is nurtured by a forest researcher to see if space affected its ability to grow. 450 seeds happily sprouted, begging the question - where would they plant them. Luckily, it was 1976 and what better way to celebrate a bi-centennial than by planting special trees which circled the moon all around the country.

Text © Carolyn Bennett Fraiser, 2022. Image © Simona Mulazzani, 2022.


This special sycamore ended up planted in Indiana. And then, like so many of the other trees, it was forgotten. Except for a small plague naming it a "moon tree." When "one ordinary girl" staring at the tree, spurred "one third-grade class" to contact "one research scientist" at NASA, the mystery of one ordinary boy and a sycamore seed is solved. Kids will enjoy the world-wide results that occurred from the curiosity and determination of third graders determined to answer - "What is a moon tree?"

Text © Carolyn Bennett Fraiser, 2022. Image © Simona Mulazzani, 2022.


The succinct text and lively illustrations makes it accessible for younger readers. While the backmatter, keyed to each stanza or step of the story, introduces names, background information, locations, and other fascinating facts extending the experience for older readers. There is also a list of the locations for the currently identified moon trees across the U.S. and a glossary. This is an ingenious way to share a cool nugget of forgotten history and the third graders who spurred its re-discovery. It's a lyrical, engaging book which encourages readers to seek out their nearby moon trees and follow their own dreams and curiosity.


Resources:

- try making one of these space shuttles (here) & (here), or make your own design of paper or recycled items.


- are there any moon trees (or other historic trees) near you? Chose one and research why it is significant to your town or state. If you discover a moon tree not on the list, reach out and confirm it with Dr. David Williams (https://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/moon_tree.html).


- grow and plant a tree native to your area from a seed or participate in your community's tree planting or restoration events.


- check out Carolyn's Field Trip and Activity Guide for additional history and information.


If you missed the interview with Carolyn Bennett Fraiser 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.

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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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