Friday, April 28, 2023

A Tale of Love and a Tree

My Grandpa, My Tree, and Me 
by Roxanne Troup; illus. by Kendra Binney
40 pages; ages 4-8
Yeehoo Press, 2023

Theme: trees, farming, family

My grandpa planted a tree for me on the day I was born.

Grandpa loves pecan trees – he’s growing an entire orchard of them. So when he plants a tree for his granddaughter, it’s a pecan tree. Of course! But this little tree is special. It’s not part of the orchard. Orchard trees get pruned, but not this special tree. Orchard trees get sprayed, but grandpa and his granddaughter hand-pick pesky bugs from the little pecan tree. 

And when the pecans are ripe, orchard trees get shaken by a padded arm attached to the tractor. Not the little pecan tree, though. Grandpa and granddaughter whack those nuts down using a long pole, collect them in buckets, and sort them to dry by hand.

What I like about this book: I like the compare-and-contrast between commercial nut growing and tending a favorite nut tree. Readers see what’s involved in growing pecans, from blossom to harvest. There’s also a sweet relationship growing between grandpa and grandchild, who work together to tend their favorite tree through the seasons. And there is Back Matter (which you know I love)! Did you know that pecan trees can live 100 years or more? And that there are about a thousand varieties of pecans? Although there is no pecan pie recipe in the back matter, there is a link to the teacher’s guide where there is a recipe! 

I emailed Roxanne a couple weeks ago with One Question:

Me: How did your experiences growing up on a farm inform your book?

Roxanne: I grew up near agriculture, but not pecan farms. In Missouri, where I grew up, pecans grew wild near creek banks and waterways. Occasionally people planted them in backyards, but no one I knew grew pecans commercially. We grew corn, beans, and alfalfa. Any fruit or nuts we harvested came from wild groves and backyard gardens.

The difference between commercial pecan growing and backyard trees is what inspired my story's structure. During the research process, I discovered that some farmers grow nuts commercially—just like my grandfather grew fields of beans. And that made me curious. I knew how we collected pecans from one or two trees at a time, but how did a pecan grower manage to harvest from hundreds of trees at once? Did they fill 5-gallon buckets like we did? Or use special equipment like my grandfather used in his fields? Did pecan growers net their trees to keep birds and squirrels from stealing their harvest, just like we netted the cherry trees in our garden? What happened to their harvest if there wasn’t enough rain—or too much rain? How did they deal with insect threats? I was full of questions—questions that inspired me to find answers, and eventually helped me write this book.

Beyond the Books:

Pecans are one of the nuts native to North America. There are other native nut-bearing trees, so next time you go hiking in a forest look for some of these trees: Oaks (acorn), black walnuts, shagbark hickory, American beech, butternut trees, and American chestnuts. 

Adopt a nut tree for a year. If you find a nut tree in a park or botanical garden or along the road near you, take some time observing it. What is the bark like? What are leaves like? Do a leaf-rubbing. What sort of husk protect the nuts? I’m lucky; I can spend time watching how the black walnut and shagbark hickories that grow along our road change over the season. 

Today is Arbor Day – a perfect day to plant a tree (or get one to plant this weekend). If you love nuts, here are four fast-growing nut trees you can plant with a parent or grandparent.

Roxanne 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 provided by the author.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Explore Outdoors ~ Yellow Flowers

 Every season has its colors. For our area, spring starts out yellow, with daffodils, dandelions, coltsfoot, and these - forsythia and willow. What color(s) does Spring wear in your area?



Friday, April 21, 2023

A Climate Change Toolbox

 Tomorrow is Earth Day, so today is a perfect day for introducing a book about…

Climate Warriors: Fourteen Scientists and Fourteen Ways We Can Save Our Planet   
by Laura Gehl 
72 pages; ages 9-14
Millbrook Press (Lerner), 2023

“Sometimes, when something is big and frightening, we don’t want to think about it,” writes Laura Gehl. And right now, the biggest and scariest problem we’ve got is climate change. It’s a huge problem, so overwhelming that we might wonder what can we even do to solve it?

As with every problem, the best place to begin is with understanding what it is. So Laura takes the first chapter to explain what climate change is, how humans are causing it, and what we can do about it. Then she introduces fourteen scientists who are studying – and fighting – climate change. A forester, a conservation biologist, a scientist working with artificial intelligence. An economist, a materials scientist, a psychologist, and eight more. 

Chapter by chapter, Laura shows what scientists and climate activists are doing to understand – and communicate their findings about – climate change. In each chapter, the featured “climate warrior” offers recommendations: making cities more walkable, planting trees, creating better public transportation systems, finding substitutes for meat, protecting forests and coastal ecosystems… the list is long.

Each chapter ends with one or more things kids (and their families) can do to combat climate change. Here’s the thing: as crazy as it sounds, individual efforts add up. So if you do something, and get your family and friends to join you, you’re making a positive change. Laura ends her book with a chapter that adds a short list of specific ways you can be a climate warrior. 

Reduce your use of plastics, Laura says. “Switch to reusable containers instead of plastic bags … and encourage your family to use refillable water bottles and soap dispensers.” Plant a garden. Compost food scraps and leaves. Share things like bicycles and books. Eat less meat. Last on the list – and possibly most important – use your voice to share climate-friendly actions. Included in back matter is a quick guide for writing a letter to your Congressperson, Governor, or even the President. There’s also a list of helpful books and websites.

I caught up with Laura Gehl a few days ago and she graciously answered a couple questions.

Me: What do you do to avoid feeling overwhelmed and helpless in the face of such 
a huge problem like climate change?

Laura: One of the scientists I wrote about in Climate Warriors, David Rolnick, told me that he fights climate change using artificial intelligence because that’s what he’s good at. He said that everyone can help fight climate change using their own specific skills and talents. This conversation really resonated with me, because writing is what I happen to be good at. In all aspects of my life, the best way to avoid feeling overwhelmed and helpless is to dig into whatever is making me feel that way. So writing about climate change, specifically the hopeful side and how scientists, kids, and everyone else can work together to help slow it down, was the best possible way to feel empowered instead of powerless. Taking a reusable water bottle when I go for a hike, instead of single-use plastic, is a small way to help slow climate change…but the impact of this book, if it inspires lots of kids, could be much bigger.

Me: I love how you set up each chapter with an explanation of what that climate warrior does, along with recommendations from their work. You follow this up with an entire section 
about how kids can be climate warriors. These features really make this book feel like a toolbox for hope. 

Laura: Climate change is such a huge, complicated topic, and I am a scientist at heart. So I wanted to include a lot of science in this book, which I believe is needed in order to really understand the problem, as well as the possibilities for slowing it down. On the other hand, I wanted the book to feel accessible for kids and not like they were being bombarded by too many tricky concepts—from hydrology to economics to materials science! I experimented with different formats, and both my critique partners and my editors really helped me hone in on a format that would feel kid-friendly and empowering. My personal favorite part is that I talk about what each scientist was like as a kid. I hope that this will really bring home to readers that each of these scientists was once in their shoes…liking music or sports or playing outside, trying to figure out what they might want to do as a job one day…and spark the idea that they too could grow up to be a huge part of finding new ways to combat climate change! 

Laura is a member of  STEAM Team 2023. You can find out more about her at her website

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Explore outdoors ~ trilliums!

Today I'm celebrating trilliums on this blog. Over at The GROG blog it's Bugs - the Third Annual Arthropod Roundtable. Hop on over and join a delightful group of authors with bugs in their books.

The red trillium is native to the eastern and northeastern US, blooming in the spring. Some people call it "Robins Wake" because it blooms at the same time robins show up, and it has those red petals. The flowers grow in shady wooded spots, and when they are finished blooming they produce a bright red berry that birds and other animals eat. If you are lucky enough to find some, just take pictures. These flowers are on the NY state protected list.

What flowers do you find in shady places?

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Explore Outdoors ~ emerging daffodil

Watching flowers is like watching birds ~
but slower.
Sure, they don't have wings
but they do have showy colors
and they make your heart sing! 
This week check out the flowers opening up in your neighborhood. 
  • Do they hang out in groups?
  • What colors do you notice? 
  • Are your flowers on trees or shrubs?
  • How many petals do your flowers have?