A Tree is nice

Title: A Tree is nice
Author: Janice May Udry
Illustration: Marc Simont
Publisher: Scholastic
Age Group: 4-8
Picture : Wikipedia

A Tree is nice seems rather too plain for a title for children. Nothing fancy or funny. But its this quality that’s held in all earnestness up until the end that also makes the book enjoyable, without laboring to interpret or analyze.

The book is a Caldecott winner and this calls for dissecting the illustration. Color and black-and-whites alternate; ink drawings draped in gray, follow and precede beautiful watercolors. Especially the watercolors, they glorify the foliage in varying seasons with splurges of warm greens, sometimes with flaming reds and bright yellows in their midst. The book is 11×7 inches in size. This allows for generous detailing of the trunks and twisted branches in varying dimensions, in browns that remind us of barks of dark chocolate. Something about the book gives us that warmth – the thick dirty white paper with rawness resembling recycled material, and the uncomplicated content of the drawings and writing, I think. The fact that is was published in 1956 connects the dots.

Trees are very nice. They fill up the sky.
Every detail about a tree that might seem insignificant or intuitive to the adult fills up the pages alongside illustration that obediently portrays the discussed detail. The text will suit a read-aloud to the little ones, without fuss or frolic. The writing will also make it an encouraging experience for an early reader.


Even if you have just one tree, it is nice too.

Perfect for a swing, a playhouse, as a pirate ship, for nests, for shade, for picnics, or to even rest a hoe – gathering and presenting the obvious truths in succession makes my preschooler nod mirthfully with a new found appreciation for something taken granted. He sometimes pauses his play in the backyard to enlist nice things about a tree, with confidence and care.

A tree is nice to plant……
….
….
You say to people, “I planted that tree.”
They wish they had one so they go home and plant a tree too.

Without much ado, we celebrate our planet that bears the trees.

Earth Mother

Title: Earth Mother
Author: Ellen Jackson
Illustrator: Leo & Diane Dillon
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Age Group: 4-8
Picture:

Mother Earth is Bhoodevi, bejeweled and fertile, in Hindu mythology. She is a young African woman in this book. Both epitomize Earth, like a mother – gentle, beautiful, giving.

Earth Mother wakes up and walks across deserts and mesas, touching the lives of bugs, flowers and birds. Soon she meets Man. Man is preparing to catch a frog for breakfast. He thanks Mother for Frog. But he goes on to complain about the Mosquito that annoys him. Nonchalantly, Earth Mother moves on to savannas and plains, tending and caring for her creations on the way.

She filled the water holes and sharpened the thornbushes. Her hand guided a sunbird to a blossom sweet with nectar.

In the north, Earth Mother powdered the trees with snow. Tiny crystals gleamed in the air like diamond dust.

The depth and beauty with which the writing evokes calmness and vigor, that ultimately creates a sense of wonder (for nature), is accomplished in childish simplicity in this book.

Moving on, Mother meets Frog biting into an insect. Frog while thanking her for the Mosquito, whines about Man. Interspersed with these encounters is Earth Mother devoutly “touching” things and lives, in different forms and places. The final meeting with the Mosquito follows the pattern. But Mother walks on unperturbed.

Then she went to sleep….And the world, in its own way, was perfect.

The illustrations meet the standards of the text with an additional quality of mystique. Colorful but in a muted way, a plethora of geometric patterns work in harmony with many diverse landscapes and creatures.

Ellen Jackson’s talent is distinct in her attempt to keep the subtle humor intact and apt in the midst of an overwhelming serenity. The circle of life cannot be more interestingly explained to children. And when a book leaves one convinced and spell bound, it is a good piece of work.

There is more information, educational stuff and ideas for Earth Day celebration for children on the author’s website here.

Salutations to Earth and her children – man and all things living and lifeless. May we share her and protect her in kind ways. Happy Earth Day!

P.S: This book reminded my family of a lovely Native American chant we learnt at a music class, that also ended up as a lullaby for a long time for us. You can listen to, or watch it here. I have also added the lyrics below.

The Earth is our Mother
adapted from a Hopi chant

The earth is our mother, we must take care of her (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

Her sacred ground we walk upon, with every step we take (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

The earth is our mother, she will take care of us (2x)
Hey yana ho yana hey yan yan (2x)

The sky is our father, we must take care of him…
The rivers are our sisters, we must take care of them…
The trees are our brothers, we must take care of them…