Connection. Heart. Hope. This book has it all.
(Quick apology. My scanner washed out all of the illustrations, so I used photos.)
Britta’s two favorite trees,
Apple and Magnolia,
were best friends.
Britta couldn’t explain how she was
so sure about the friendship or how
the trees had become best friends
in the first place. But deep down
in her heart, she knew it was true.
Well! This opening immediately grabbed my heart and took it for a stroll.
Britta visits her trees every day and watches as they interact, in the way that trees do, waving their leaves and dropping things at each other’s feet. Britta dances under the stars with her trees.
But of course, Father and Britta’s sister pooh-pooh this idea. No one thinks that trees can be friends—except Nana. She believes that “unusual friendships can be the most powerful of all.”
I am now just as fully invested in what happens to these two trees as if they were human friends. So when Magnolia starts to droop and turn brown, I start to worry. It doesn’t help that Father says he doesn’t “think Magnolia will survive the winter.” Oh no!
But Britta takes action. And one day she thinks that the two trees are closer together. So she decides to measure and chart the distance between them. As the distance between them lessens, Britta feels the hope in her heart grow.
Dear Reader, I cannot tell you how the story ends. It’s pitch perfect. Each character stays true to their characterization, and, well, now I want to go out and hug the trees in my yard and ask them how they’re enjoying the friends they’re growing among.
The story also offers up a terrific example of science in action, when Britta decides to chart the distance between the two trees. She takes measurements over a period of time to prove that they are definitely growing toward each other. Science not shown in a didactic way, but as an organic part of the story.
The illustrations by Patricia Metola in shades of red, blue, and brown with tiny bits of yellow, appear to be a combination of colored pencil and acrylic or watercolor. They match the delicate heart and humor of this story perfectly. The front end papers focus on Apple with its leaves, fruit, and blossoms, as well as the dog featured in the story. The back end papers switch to Magnolia and its leaves and blossoms and the cat from the story. Lovely bookends.
Learn more about how trees communicate with each other. Pair this book with Lita Judge’s The Wisdom of Trees or Maria Gianferrari’s Be a Tree.
Describe the characters in this book: Father, Bronwyn, Britta, and Nana. How are they different? Are any of them similar to each other? Which characters do you like best, and why? Would it have been a different story if all of the characters were like Britta? Why do you think the author made them different?
Make origami trees
If you have two plants, perhaps tomato plants, growing near each other in a garden, can you chart the distance between their branches over the course of time? Also make a record of rain (or watering) and sunny days. Do those two elements make a difference in how quickly they grow?
Title: Apple and Magnolia
Author: Laura Gehl
Illustrator: Patricia Metola
Publisher: Flyaway Books, 2022
Ages: Pre-K through elementary school
Themes: friendship, hope, tree science
For more perfect picture book recommendations, please visit Susanna Hill’s website.