Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Explore Outdoors ~ Looking for Tree Holes

 Last Friday I posted a review about Tree Hole Homes. So I went out on a short walk to see if there were any holes in the trees around my house and garden. A branch had recently fallen during a storm, but too recent for a decent hole to form. However, there were some nice holes in the apple trees near my garden.

I'm not tall enough to peer inside the one shown in the upper photo - and I wouldn't want to disturb anyone sleeping in there. But the bottom one - I can see through the tree. It's hollow inside. If I were a very small person, I could climb in there with a a good book! 

This week take a look for tree holes in your neighborhood. But don't disturb any sleeping creatures!

Monday, February 6, 2023

Celebrating the Days Between Seasons

According to the calendar, spring begins March 20. Six weeks from today, shadow or not, regardless of what the groundhog or marmot or armadillo saw in your neck of the woods. For most folks, the Vernal Equinox is the seasonal marker. It’s that point in the Earth’s orbit when the sun sits directly above the equator. It’s the day when hours of daylight equal hours of dark. It’s an important marker for those of us who plant seeds and tend gardens.

And yet for many of us, February 2 is more than Groundhog Day or Candlemas. A cross-quarter day, it’s a midpoint between seasons. And even though we were subjected to polar temperatures (-30F in some places) this week feels like the beginning of a new season. Maybe it’s the fact that days are noticeably longer. Maybe it’s the way the morning light turns everything apricot-colored and sets ice-encrusted twigs and needles to shimmer and glint like precious gems. Sure, we might will most assuredly get more frost and ice and snow and sleet, but something has shifted.

What does an emerging spring look like? Is it the drip of maple sap into a metal bucket? Is it the sound of birds squabbling near the feeder? The gurgle of a stream skipping over icy rocks? The smell of mud?

How do you measure spring? By the time it takes to shovel the driveway? The length of a day? The color of the sky? The sound of geese overhead? And when spring comes, where will X mark the spot? 

Friday, February 3, 2023

Tree Hollows Make Cozy Hiding Places

 Ages ago, when I was in fourth grade (I think), I read My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. The cover was a simple line drawing of a boy with a hawk perched on his shoulder, but inside was a detailed tale of a kid who lived off the land. He made his home inside a hollow tree and used the library to learn all about edible weeds. I wanted to live inside a tree, too – it sounded so cozy. 

I wasn’t the only one. After reading her copy of the book, Melissa Stewart also wanted to make a home inside a hollow tree. And the seeds for Tree Hole Homes were planted. Time passed, and she forgot about the book until … on a visit to Vancouver Island, Canada, she spotted a tree with a hole big enough for her to squeeze inside.

So she did. 

It was then, as she looked up into the hollow tree, that she knew she’d write a book about tree hole homes. The thing about writing books – and growing trees – is that they both take time. That serendipitous visit to Vancouver Island happened in 2011. Melissa’s book came out in October, 2022. In between those years, Melissa filled up notebooks with tree hole observations.

Tree Hole Homes: Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks 
by Melissa Stewart; illus. by Amy Hevron 
40 pages; ages 4-8
‎Random House Studio, 2022

theme: nature, animals, trees

Imagine this: One day while walking in the woods, you spot a towering tree with a hole big enough to slip inside. 

So you do.

From birds to squirrels, frogs to bears, many animals use tree hollows as a place to nest, rest, or just escape the world for a bit. A tree home can be calm and quiet – a place for a fisher to sleep during the day. Or it can be filled to the brim with activity, as cubs and kits and hatchlings explore their world. 

There is so much I like about this book, beginning with the endpapers! The first endpaper shows a child with a backpack walking toward a tree. There’s a spread before the title page where we see the child sitting inside that tree. They look so cozy and content! You meet them later in the book and also on the back endpaper.

I like the layout of the pages. Large text presents a big idea: a tree hole home could be large or small. Smaller text provides information about the featured animal (or two) that live in those holes. Here’s am example of the spread explaining just how busy a tree hole home can be, with seven little ones to care for. (I particularly like this spread because the raccoon kits are checking out the fungi growing on the tree!)

And of course I love that there is back matter. Three pages provide the vital statistics about the tree hole dwellers featured in the book: their scientific name, where they live, what they eat, and a fun fact. Plus there is a list of books for curious kids (and adults) who want to learn more about animal homes.

Beyond the Books:

Head over to Melissa’s website and check out the videos about Tree Hole Homes. There’s a fun video about how Amy created the art for this book by painting on wood (and leaving some of the wood grain showing). You can find a link to a Reader’s Theater here.

Read more about tree hollow habitats in this article published by the Concord Monitor

Go on a tree hollow scavenger hunt. Look for:
  •  A hole high in a tree
  • A hole low to the ground
  • A hole made by a limb that fell
  • A hole made by an animal
  • An old hollow
  • A new hole or hollow
  • Small holes in a tree
  • A large hole
  • Holes that look like they were made while seeking food
  • A hole used as a nesting or resting place
Adopt a tree hollow. Visit it every month and keep track of the activity in and around it. You’ll need a notebook, pencil, maybe binoculars, and something to sit on – choose a place where you can sit quietly, hidden from view.

Melissa is a member of #STEAMTeam2023. You can find out more about her at her website.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday. It’s a wonderful gathering where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy from my local library system.