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.

1 comment:

  1. Great pick for Arbor Day! I've had this book on my list for some time. Thanks for the reminder, Sue, to pick it up!