tree hugger

Treehuggers: Children’s Picture Books Honoring Trees

by Marsha Rakestraw

Trees are mythical, magical and mysterious.

We depend upon them for everything from the air we breathe to the inspiration for bad poetry to a source for the very materials that make our lives possible.

Kids love trees.

They love to climb them, trounce around their leaves, notice who lives in them, eat their fruits (and nuts and seeds), and play in their shade.

Summer is a great time to celebrate trees, and in their honor, we have a sample list of suggested picture books that humane educators, changemakers, and parents will want to add to your teaching libraries.

Aani and the Tree Huggers by Jeannine Atkins
1995. Grades 1-4.
Aani and her community rely on the trees in their forest for their survival. When men come and start cutting down the trees, Aani takes drastic action to save the trees…and her village.

Gus is a Tree by Claire Babin
2008. Grades PreK-2.
Gus falls asleep under a tree and dreams of becoming one of them, experiencing life through the lens of a tree. Great for building reverence.

Where’s the Elephant? by Barroux
2016. Grades PreK-3.
Where’s the elephant? Where’s the parrot? Where’s the snake? This simple book uses a seek-and-find formula to introduce the impacts of deforestation and urbanization. The animals become easier to find as more trees are chopped down and houses, roads, and structures are built, and the animals must decide how to help themselves.

The Great Kapok Tree
by Lynne Cherry
2000. Grades PreK-3.
A man who walks into the Amazon rainforest, planning to cut down a tree, is visited by animals who plead with him to save their home.

What Planet Are You From, Clarice Bean? by Lauren Child
2002. Grades 1-4.
When Clarice’s brother decides to save their neighborhood tree from being chopped down, the whole family gets involved, and Clarice’s school project gets more complicated.

Thea’s Tree by Judith Clay
2014. Grades PreK-2.
More than almost anything, Thea wants a real tree that she can climb and sit under to dream. But there are no trees in her city. One day a leaf blows by, and Thea follows it, hoping it will lead her to a living tree.

This Tree Counts! by Alison Formento
2010. Grades PreK-2.
“Trees sure can do a lot!” Mr. Tate takes his class behind the school to plant more trees, but before they do, he has students listen to the tale of the lone tree who lives there.

The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins
2013. Grades 1-4.
“Not everyone feels at home in the woods. But Kate did.” Katherine Olivia Sessions was the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a science degree. When a teaching job lands her in deserty San Diego, Kate begins a life-long campaign to find plants and trees that “liked hot, dry weather and steep hills and canyons.” Kate’s work transformed San Diego and the famous Balboa Park into “the lush, leafy city it is today.”

The Tree: A Fable by Neal Layton
2017. Grades PreK-2.
A couple buys a plot of land and plans to build their home. When they begin to cut down the big tree in the middle of their plot, they discover that it is already a home to many other beings, and they strive to devise a solution that works for everyone.

Trees by Leminiscates
2017. Grades PreK-1.
Minimal text and unique illustrations explore basic information about trees and how they enrich our world.

The Tree by Dana Lyons
2002. Grades PreK-3.
This song turned into a rhyming story tells of an 800 year old tree that reflects on its life as bulldozers come to cut it down. What will happen?

We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow
2010. Grades K-3.
Simple poetic text shares the benefits of planting a tree.

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola
2008. Grades K-6.
Tells the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and her creation of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya to help the health and well-being of her fellow citizens (especially women).

Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland
2009. Grades K-2.
A bear is so filled with love and happiness that he hugs everyone he meets — including the trees. When he meets a man with an ax, though, he has to decide whether he can stay true to himself while protecting the trees he loves.

Picture a Tree by Barbara Reid
2011. Grades PreK-2.
Readers are invited to “picture a tree” in many ways, from a tunnel to an ocean to a pirate ship, and more. This book will help inspire readers to think about why they love trees.

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
1971. Grades PreK – 3.
As the Once-lers happily chop down Truffula Trees to make into items, the Lorax, who speaks for the trees, warns the people what will happen if they don’t stop. Will it be too late?

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