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For the Love of Trees

I go to the library weekly to read picture books.  Sometimes I’m in mission mode because of an article I read on an author or because of mentor texts I want to read.  Sometimes I just peruse the stacks and randomly pick books. Admittedly, this technique of exposing myself to the craft leads to more judging a book by its cover than is fair, but covers and titles do sell books.

Two weeks ago, I almost didn’t make my usual library trip because I was exhausted from clearing huge limbs from a tree that fell on and next to our house on the night of July 14.  See (http://www.halcyonnature.com/2015/07/29/a-dying-friend/) for the story.  I wasn’t just exhausted, I was sad.  I wanted to express my love for this tree and did not know how, and so my picture book searching that day had little energy.

Serendipitously, I pulled out a true gem, and some much needed therapy.  In my hands was a book titled Our Tree Named Steve by Alan Zweibel and illustrated by David Catrow (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005).  With splendid honesty and simplicity Zweibel tells the story of a family with a special tree. A tree that stands by them in all their needs as they grow.  The story is told as a letter the dad writes to his children while they are visiting their grandparents because their beloved tree had fallen in a storm.  The dad found a way to keep a constant memory of their cherished friend (I won’t spoil the ending).

I love this book!  It is a perfect example of how a book can speak to a reader and comfort them or empower him or her.  This book empowered me to write the blog post about my special tree.  I hope you too have a special tree, or at least, I hope you’ll seek out and read Our Tree Named Steve.

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For a lesson plan that uses this book, please go to: (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reading-Making-Connections-and-Science-Tree-Resources-Lesson-1995879)

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A Monster of My Very Own

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A friend recently recommended I read Marilyn’s Monster by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Matt Phelan (2015 Candlewick Press).  I was enchanted. While I know I can’t really have a monster, I do write picture books and so have been known to indulge in fantasies.  What would I want my monster to do?  Be a super-charming, super-productive agent for my manuscripts?  Nah, I’d probably annoy too many publishers.  Cut trees and stack wood for me so I’ve more time to write?  I’d be afraid of what it’d do after it cut down all my trees.  I know.  I can’t really have a monster.

This book empowers children to do what they think is right despite the social norms of what one is ‘supposed’ to do. It’s not about breaking rules, rather it’s about being strong and working to get what you want. After reading it I was reminded of an older picture book about monsters: Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems (2005 Hyperion Books for Children) and went looking for it too.  Serendipitously, I discovered The Monstore by Tara Lazar, illustrated by James Burks (2013 Aladdin).  Together these three books make for a fun afternoon contemplating monsters, but they do much more for us.  Kids can learn how bullying hurts, how to be a good friend, and in general learn positive character traits.  Adult readers to children have engaging books to model these character traits.  It’s almost better than having your own monster!

FullSizeRenderCheck out my TeachersPayTeachers store for a mini-unit using these three books.  It’s great for back-to-school character building and getting to know your students:

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Back-to-school-Monster-Mania-Mini-Unit-1948425