The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom – Lita Judge

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom – Lita Judge. Roaring Brook Press, 2021. 9781250237071 

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

 What did you like about the book? Each page spread in this comprehensive study includes a free verse poem (‘what trees might say if they did use words’), a lush watercolor painting, and a dense nonfiction passage.  A variety of topics are presented, relative to how trees defend themselves from animals, protect themselves from the elements, impact their immediate habitat and the global environment, and communicate with and take care of each other.  Forests and trees from all over the world are depicted and described, from the elm trees in Central Park which produce chemicals to attract wasps that will do away with leaf-munching caterpillars, to the tualang saplings of Malaysia that depend on their ‘mother’ trees for nourishment until they are tall enough to process photosynthesis on their own.

The Wisdom of Trees is clearly a labor of love for Lita Judge (she describes her special connection to one ancient tree as her inspiration for becoming a children’s author).  The poems and paintings on their own pair beautifully; particular standouts include a poem titled ‘Shhh…’ which describes trees about to become dormant for the winter against a backdrop of snow, a lone fox, and bare birch trees in China, and the lush greenery (flecked with bright parrots) of ‘We Are Like Wizards,’ a poem about the independent ecosystem within a kapok tree in Brazil.  The addition of the nonfiction sidebars makes each spread a science lesson in itself (and sometimes history too), and persistent readers will learn a LOT about the biology of trees and how they adapt and work together.  Abundant backmatter – 10 pages! – provides historical and geographical context for each of the page spreads, as well as information about forest preservation – such as fire suppression, replanting, and environmental measures, a glossary and a list of suggested websites.

Anything you did not like about the book?  It’s a lot to read in one sitting – a teacher would do well to use this as part of a science unit, and share one page spread at a time so that students can digest and discuss the dense information presented.

 To whom would you recommend this book? Upper elementary science teachers – working on plant adaptations, trees, habitats, or ecology units – will find this a very useful resource, even if only reading certain portions aloud.  Students can use it as a base for starting research on tree-related topics, and the copious back matter will support that research even further.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Nonfiction – 582.16

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 7/6/2021

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