Be a Tree – Perfect Picture Book Friday

In a wave of “tree books” that have suddenly appeared on the market, this one distinguishes itself in the way it speaks directly to the reader. And in the strong connections it makes between the reader and trees. It starts with an energetic directive—

Text ©️Maria Gianferrari Illustration ©️Felicita Sala

Be a tree!

Stand tall.

Stretch your branches to the sun.

In the next spread, where we see a cross-section of the earth with roots running deep in the soil, we’re instructed to

Let your roots curl,

coil in the soil to ground you.

Doesn’t that make you want to stretch and then curl your toes into the soil?

In the following spreads, we see how our spines are like trunks, skin is like bark, how we are layered, built, and grow like trees.

But then the storyline expands outward, showing how we can be like trees in the world, using our environment for sustenance.

And then taking an even broader view, showing how we are one of many. We and trees need communities. We share resources and protect each other.

And then one of my favorite spreads shows this interconnection metaphorically—

Text ©️Maria Gianferrari Illustration ©️Felicita Sala

A wood wide web

of information.

Just as trees are connected to each other, we are connected to other humans. But everything in our world is connected in some way to everything else, an important truth to realize if we are ever to halt and/or reverse climate change.

Toward the end, there’s a marvelous gatefold that shows how immigrant trees are vulnerable unless they’re surrounded by a supportive community. An apt metaphor for our times.

Felicitas Sala’s freeflowing, water color, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations in earth tones work organically with Gianferrari’s lyrical, spare text in ways that make me want to move my body. I could see a parent or teacher reading this to children and having them move like the trees and kids in the illustrations during the reading.

Back matter includes information on how we can help save trees and help in our communities, the anatomy of a tree, and a page of resources for more information about trees.


Pair this book with I Am the Jungle: A Yoga Adventure Book by Melissa Hurt or Outside In by Deborah Underwood.

Another great pairing: The Wisdom of Trees by Lita Judge

Collect leaves from trees in your yard, neighborhood, or park. See if you can match the leaves to ones shown on the end papers of this book. Or use an online tree identification guide.

Sit outside under or in your favorite tree. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the breeze on your skin and in your hair. Imagine how the tree feels. Do you think it knows it’s your favorite tree? Write a poem to the tree, and then write a poem to you from the tree’s point of view.

Title: Be a Tree!

Author: Maria Gianferrari

Illustrator: Felicita Salas

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2021

Ages: Pre-K through 3rd grade

Themes: trees, communities, cooperation

For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.

25 thoughts on “Be a Tree – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Andrea Mack says:

    This book sounds amazing! Your description makes me want to run out and get it and curl up under one of my backyard trees to read it. I love the idea that it provides a different perspective (or maybe a few different perspectives) on trees. The illustrations looked very detailed, like something children can spend time exploring. Thank you so much for featuring this one!

  2. authorlaurablog says:

    I’m glad you mentioned the forest of tree books currently being released. This one looks amazing, and I’ve seen a few others I’ve enjoyed too. Ordering it from the library. 📚📚📚

  3. Beth Anderson says:

    Love Love Love Sala’s illustrations!! And Gianferrari is such a master of sparse lyrical text. A must read for sure! So many tree books these days – I think it’s because of all the research that has come out over the last 5 years from the scientist who has done so much to discover communication and so much more. So fascinating!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, it is fascinating to think about all this communication that’s constantly going on around us that we are just now learning so much more about. And I do think it’s interesting that it was a woman who pioneered this field.

  4. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I have a copy of this book coming to me hopefully soon. I can’t wait to read and review for Maria. I’m sharing this post to spread the word about not only a beautiful book, but about a very talented author. I love all of Maria’s books.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes! I grew up on a farm and spent much of my time in trees and wandering through the woods. I love learning how interconnected we and the trees all are. The art is a lovely match with Maria’s words. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Joanna says:

    I read this last week and think it is now my favorite of Maria’s books. It is deep and lyrical and heartwarming. And the art is just stunning. I love the plethora of tree books this year.

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