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The Children's Bookshelf: The Wisdom of Trees

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This is the Children’s Bookshelf and I’m Sue Ann Martin.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom written and illustrated by Lita Judge is a nonfiction picture book that honors the incredible community of trees and how trees actually communicate with each other through systems of chemical and electrical signals spread via fungi. “These fungi branch out in a dense network of straw-like fibers” says the author as she explains what is called the Wood Wide Web.  

Yes, trees can talk! An example of this ability comes early in the book with the story about elm trees in New York City’s Central Park. When they become aware that leaf-eating caterpillars are indeed lunching on their leaves the elm trees send chemicals into the air that attract parasitic wasps. The wasps get busy laying their eggs in the stomachs of the caterpillars which eventually kill the caterpillars and save the trees.

The 15 trees discussed in this book are located all around the world including the Douglas fir in British Columbia, Canada, the kapok tree in the Brazilian rain forest, the chestnut oak in Virginia and the 2500 years old  European yew in London, England.

Many processes such as photosynthesis and how an ailing tree in need of food can send out a distress call on its network of fibers that causes other trees to send sugar back to that ailing tree are well described. The author-illustrator has also written a poem that goes along with each tree’s scientific story. The beautiful watercolors and poems are compelling. The back material is alive with facts including a terrific glossary.

The Wisdom of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom written and illustrated by Lita Judge is an engaging story about how trees communicate for the betterment of forests, birds, wild animals and climate all over the world. This book is a wonderful gift of knowledge and natural beauty and is ideal for readers 7-10 years of age and up (Roaring Book Press, 2021).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the activity questions, ideal for home use, can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for the Wisdom of Trees

Younger children: Hide and seek amongst the trees in this book and find the following animals in the illustrations: an owl, a wasp, a caterpillar, a giraffe, a squirrel, a racoon, a bear, a turkey, a woodpecker, a deer, a robin and a parrot.

If you were one of the trees in this book which tree would you like to be? Why? Look at how the tree you selected stands, how it holds its branches and how its leaves might move in the wind. Now standup and put your body in the shape of this tree and begin to move your branches and leaves on a sunny day---feel that sun. Then move your branches and leaves in a stormy night----feel that rain. Have fun!

Older children: There are twenty words in the Glossary at the back of this book. Read each aloud. Are there any words in this list that you knew before reading this book? Which words are new to you? Look outside in your yard and see if you can spot any trees that fit the following four categories:  a snag, a sapling, a deciduous tree or a coniferous tree. Perhaps a parent will help you find these categories in your neighborhood or in a nearby park.