Friday, September 23, 2022

The Nature Around Us

Where do you go to find a bit of quiet and nature? Your backyard? A park? The forested lands of a nature preserve or state forest? No matter where it is, you’ll find a community – if not people, then of the birds, insects, plants, and other wild things that live there.

Themes: nature, environment, community

A Park Connects Us 
by Sarah Nelson; illus. by Ellen Rooney
‎32 pages; ages 3-7
Owlkids, 2022    

A park invites us—spreads out its arms and welcomes us in, whoever we are.

Between the open green spaces and the trails, a park connects and gathers and collects us to each other. Using tons of active verbs, Sarah Nelson shows how a park can be a nature sanctuary, dance party, picnic place, and even a place for political action. And the cool thing: a park belongs to everyone.

What I like about this book: I love the verbs! Parks are filled with people doing things – even if that “doing” involves sitting quietly and listening to the sounds of nature. And did I mention that it’s written in rhyme? No? Well, it is and it’s fun to read aloud. And there is Back Matter, where we learn how parks were created, with biographical information about park-maker Frederick Law Olmstead. Because, can you imagine living in a city where there are no parks? 

One Million Trees: A True Story 
by Kristen Balouch 
40 pages; ages 4-8
‎Margaret Ferguson Books (Holiday House), 2022

One day after school, Mom handed me and my sisters suitcases, and dad handed us packing lists.

This happened when Kristen Balouch was 10 years old. Her family took off from California to go plant trees at a logging site in British Columbia, Canada: Kristen, her math book (she loved math!), her sisters, her mom and dad, even their pet, Wonder Dog. Where they were greeted with a hearty “Bonjour, mes amis!” 

They spent forty days living in a tent, covered in mud and bug bites, and doing the hard work required to plant trees. Cedar, pine, hemlock, and fir - one million of them. An entire forest of baby trees loaded into boxes of 500 each. If a truck can carry 500 boxes, how many trucks did it take to haul 1,000,000 trees to their camp? (Remember, Kristen has her math book along…)

What I like about this book: I love the way Kristen tells the story using art, dialog, large main text, and smaller text placed strategically along a trail or along a timeline. I love the way she shows how to plant a tree. And I love the sneaky ways she weaves math and French into the story. And there is Back Matter: an author’s note about forest products and old growth forests and why trees are essential to keeping our planet healthy.

Beyond the Books:

Where are the parks in your town or city? Get (or make) a map and then draw in where the parks are. Visit as many as you can. Take pictures. Write a short bit about each park. Then create a town Park Guide for people new to your area.

Next time you visit your park, find out what people are doing. How many are eating? How many are laying on the grass? How many children are playing in the playground? How many birds are waiting for hand-outs? Make a bar graph to show how people - and pigeons, maybe - use the park.

Get to know the trees where you live. Make a tree notebook where you can draw (or paste a photo of) the different trees growing around you. Press a leaf. Watch for flowers. Make a bark rubbing. Learn their names. Introduce them to your friends.

Make up a Math Problem about the trees around you. Maybe it will be about how many seeds will grow from maple "helicopters" or how many acorns squirrels can harvest from an oak tree. Maybe it will have something to do with how tall the tree is or how much ribbon it takes to tie around the trunk.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. Wow! Did Kristen include a photo of what that forest looks like today? Very curious. And what amazing parents to do that with their kids!

  2. Yes, I wondered the same thing -- and how is the forest now? These two sound like great reads! I fondly think of nature as my friend and continue to be fascinated with it. It may have begun with my two favorite trees in the backyard a cherry tree and a willow tree. I spent hours in the trees singing my own songs, waiting to surprise the crows when our tree was pregnant with cherries. I could climb high in the willow tree and explore all day. When my husband and I got married we bought our first home we inherited a small Christmas tree farm in the back yard. So many fond memories.