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The Picture Book Buzz

nell plants a tree - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

I've discovered an amazing picture book! It's lyrical, sensory text and warm, tender illustrations make you want to linger in the book and return over and over to enjoy this summer day. It's fun format as a bit of a time-traveling trip is both structurally fascinating and thought provoking. It's a wonderful ode to families, kindness, and caring for our world.

nell plants a tree


Author: Anne Wynter


Illustrator: Daniel Miyares


Publisher: Balzer & Bray (2023)


Ages: 4-8


Fiction


Themes:

Family, childhood exploration, pecan trees, caring, and ecological stewardship.


Synopsis:

This gorgeous picture book shows how one little girl’s careful tending of a pecan tree creates the living center of a loving, intergenerational Black family. For Earth Day and every day! Perfect for fans of Matt de la Peña and Oge Mora.


Before her grandchildren climbed the towering tree,

explored its secret nests,

raced to its sturdy trunk,

read in its cool shade,

or made pies with its pecans…

Nell buried a seed.


Inspired by the pecan trees of the creators' own childhoods, Anne Wynter’s lyrical picture book, brought to life with breathtaking illustrations by Daniel Miyares, brims with wonder and love.


Opening Lines:

Before a grip on a branch,

and a fall to the ground

and a scrape

and a leap

and a reach for the top,


before anyone finds out how high they can climb,


Nell picks up a seed.


What I LOVED about this book:

I absolutely adore this book. I love the way Anne Wynter flows back and forth between Nell's grandchildren interacting with a tall pecan tree and Nell's actions as a child planting and caring for the pecan tree as a seedling. Her gorgeous lyrical text combines with Daniel Miyares stunning luminescent pen and ink, gouache, and collage artwork to create a magical world of playful exploration and time travel.

Text © Anne Wynter, 2023. Image © Daniel Miyares, 2023.


Before her grandchildren played in this grand old pecan tree, "Nell found a seed." Before Miyares' magnificent image of the grandkids watching birds hatch in the tree, "Nell buried the seed." I love how the light and shadow and the kid's expressions of wonder put the reader right into the tree with them.


Before Nell could watch her grandkids scamper around the tree and care for them with lemonade,

Text © Anne Wynter, 2023. Image © Daniel Miyares, 2023.


"Nell watered the soil" and cared for the tree.

Text © Anne Wynter, 2023. Image © Daniel Miyares, 2023.


I wanted to show you these two spreads together, as it is the first time we see Nell in both time periods consecutively. And because I love the symmetry Miyares wove into the illustrations between Nell in the two times lovingly "watering" and caring for her family and the tree. As well as putting both Nell's in yellow patterned dresses. It's a very visual thread of Nell's kindness and love as it radiates throughout the generations.


Wynter's wonderful verse explores special moments of summer with Grandma Nell - getting lost in a book, helping bake a pecan pie, and finding treasures ("like a leaf flecked with holes"), while simultaneously following Nell tending, growing, and planting the pecan tree. There is a remarkable scene with a granddaughter asking "what to do with a seed" as she sits on the porch while Nell knits in a rocking chair, and the reader sees Nell's fully grown pecan tree across the lawn, bathed in the orangey-pink glow of a late afternoon. It is so touching and stunning. From Nell's soft smile, one could imagine her remembering when she found a seed.


The ending continues the movement between times and ends with the present day and a super touching moment. Notes from the author and illustrator share their connections to pecan trees and special family memories which revolve around these trees and their grandparents. This is a wonderfully lyrical, gorgeously illustrated celebration of family, joyous childhood summers, ecological stewardship, and the important way kindness and caring can ripple and spread through the years.


Resources:

- if you could grow anything on a tree (pizza, puzzles, or pudding), what kind of tree would you plant? Draw a picture, create a collage, or write a description of your special tree.


- do you have space to plant your own tree in a pot or in your yard? Otherwise, you could help your community plant trees for Arbor Day (April 28th).


- look through old photos or family quilts, then using the end papers as a guide, draw, paint, or use photos to make a collage with some of the fabrics or designs you found.


If you missed the interview with Anne Wynter and Daniel Miyares 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 and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


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Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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