The best picture books about trees

Why am I passionate about this?

I was born and grew up in India. As a child, I once planted a mango seed and watched it sprout and grow into a sapling. We moved away after that but I always wondered what might have become of that little tree. I remembered that long-ago experience when I was writing my picture book, Out of the Way! Out of the Way! in which a boy, a tree, and a road all grow together. The tree is central to that book, so I picked five picture book titles that also center trees. 


I wrote...

Out of the Way! Out of the Way!

By Uma Krishnaswami, Uma Krishnaswamy (illustrator),

Book cover of Out of the Way! Out of the Way!

What is my book about?

Seeing something small and green growing in the middle of a path, a boy does his best to protect it. His small action has major consequences. It was really fun to write this brief text with its repetitive refrain and even more fun (and slightly mind-bending) to see my text illustrated by my almost-namesake, illustrator Uma Krishnaswamy. The repetition of our names on the cover points to the echo of the title in the book’s refrain. That echo, in turn, moves the text forward to keep step with the passage of time. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Wisdom Of Trees: How Trees Work Together to Form a Natural Kingdom

Uma Krishnaswami Why did I love this book?

Here’s a book to sample and savor again and again!

I loved the combination of poetry bolstered with clear, well-sourced nonfiction text on every single spread. This tribute song to forests is based on groundbreaking work about how trees create communities and sustain the places where they grow.

While placing trees in the context of the “wood wide web,” this book transports us to a glorious range of places. Beeches in Germany, an elm tree in Central Park, tualang saplings in Malaysia, kapoks in Brazil, silver birch in China, diverse forests in Colorado—all of it brings us closer to the wisdom of trees in the places we each call home.  

By Lita Judge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wisdom Of Trees as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

With lush illustrations, poems, and accessible scientific information, The Wisdom of Trees by Lita Judge is a fascinating exploration of the hidden communities trees create to strengthen themselves and others.

We clean the air and seed the clouds, we drench the thirsty land with rain. We are like wizards.

The story of a tree is a story of community, communication, and cooperation. Although trees may seem like silent, independent organisms, they form a network buzzing with life: they talk, share food, raise their young, and offer protection. Trees thrive on diversity, learn from their ancestors, and give back to their…


Book cover of The Tree in Me

Uma Krishnaswami Why did I love this book?

Trees and us. We’re bound together from breath to shelter and beyond, bound together in every way. That’s the truth of this poem in words and pictures from author-illustrator Corinna Luyken.

The words are as delicate as the rustle of leaves but they’re also completely centered on the child reader. Even the punctuation is placed with care, adding pause and breath, mediating the transition from shade to light, as if the words and their accessories were meant to float off the page as the text is read out loud.

By Corinna Luyken,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Tree in Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Through poetic text and exquisite illustrations of children reveling in nature, this picture book explores the various ways we as human beings are strong, creative, and connected to others. Each of us is like a tree, with roots and fruit, and an enduring link to everything else in nature. "The tree in me is strong. It bends in the wind, and has roots that go deep... to where other roots reach up toward their own trunk-branch-crown and sky."

As Corinna Luyken did in her award-winning My Heart, she again provides an invigorating conversation-starter that contains a world of truths -…


Book cover of Kate, Who Tamed The Wind

Uma Krishnaswami Why did I love this book?

This book by my friend and colleague Liz Garton Scanlon really felt as if it were speaking to my own book.

It starts out as the story of a man living all alone in a creaky house on top of a hill—then there’s that wind, and young Kate at the bottom of the hill! The text has a wonderful, irregular rhythm that flutters words around in the mind the way the wind lifts a leaf or bangs a shutter.

Look at the text leaping over a single dramatic wordless spread to create the final turn of this story. Nice afterword offers additional information and perspective on the marvels of trees.  

By Liz Garton Scanlon, Lee White (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kate, Who Tamed The Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Award-winning author Liz Garton Scanlon presents a young, rhythmic read-aloud about a girl who solves a windy problem with an environmentally sound solution: planting trees.

A wild wind blows on the tippy-top of a steep hill, turning everything upside down for the man who lives there. Luckily, Kate comes up with a plan to tame the wind. With an old wheelbarrow full of young trees, she journeys up the steep hill to add a little green to the man's life, and to protect the house from the howling wind. From award-winning author Liz Garton Scanlon and whimsical illustrator Lee White…


Book cover of Stand Like a Cedar

Uma Krishnaswami Why did I love this book?

I loved the musicality of this book and its bilingual construction.

I appreciated the centering of the Indigenous languages historically known as Thompson River and Coast Salish. It challenged me to look into the glossary in the back, to pore over the pronunciation guides, to lose myself briefly in the representation of unfamiliar, beautiful sounds while knowing they mean the world to those who hold them dear.

English translations (loon or earth or snake, or even the questions in the refrain) are placed within glancing reach in small print and the first-person narrative is a journey through particular, beloved landscapes of the Pacific Northwest.

By Nicola I Campbell, Carrielynn Victor (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stand Like a Cedar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When you go for a walk in nature, who do you see? What do you hear?

Award-winning storyteller Nicola I. Campbell shows what it means to “stand like a cedar” on this beautiful journey of discovery through the wilderness. Learn the names of animals in the Nłeʔkepmxcín or Halq’emeylem languages as well as the teachings they have for us. Experience a celebration of sustainability and connection to the land through lyrical storytelling and Carrielynn Victor’s breathtaking art in this children’s illustrated book.

Discover new sights and sounds with every read. A glossary and pronunciation guide can be found at the…


Book cover of We Planted a Tree

Uma Krishnaswami Why did I love this book?

The title is a refrain that rings around the world, as the children in two families, in two settings, plant a tree.

As in my book, time is a driving element here, bringing to light the cumulative effects of planting trees. Those effects, from clean air and soil retention to the bounty of fruit and the blessings of shade, are beautifully realized in the final page that brings it all back to the young characters and by inference, to the reader.

By Diane Muldrow, Bob Staake (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Planted a Tree as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 3, 4, 5, and 6.

What is this book about?

Perfect for springtime reading! In this poetic picture book with environmental themes, illustrated by award-winning artist Bob Staake, two young families in two very different parts of the world each plant a tree. 

As the trees flourish, so do the families . . . while trees all over the world help clean the air, enrich the soil, and give fruit and shade.
 
With a nod to Kenya’s successful Green Belt Movement, Diane Muldrow’s elegant text celebrates the life and hope that every tree—from Paris to Brooklyn to Tokyo—brings to our planet. Now in paperback, this book can be enjoyed by…


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A Whale of a Tale: A Sabbath Summer Solstice Story

By Kerry M. Olitzky,

Book cover of A Whale of a Tale: A Sabbath Summer Solstice Story

Kerry M. Olitzky Author Of Heroes with Chutzpah: 101 True Tales of Jewish Trailblazers, Changemakers & Rebels

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Rabbi Academic Practitioner Educator

Kerry's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This is a picture book created to help children learn how to determine Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, in countries where the summer sun remains high in the sky.

Tova travels with her mother to Alaska during the summer solstice. In the Land of the Midnight Sun, she is uncertain how to tell time because the sun never rises or sets. Tova wonders how she will know when the Sabbath begins or ends. Eventually, she talks to a wise orca. The whale shares her secret to understanding time with a circular sun and reminds Tova of the magic of Shabbat is more than telling time.

A Whale of a Tale: A Sabbath Summer Solstice Story

By Kerry M. Olitzky,

What is this book about?

A Whale of a Tale: A Sabbath Summer Solstice Story is a picture book created to help children learn how to determine Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, in countries where the summer sun remains high in the sky. Tova travels with her mother to Alaska during the summer solstice. In the Land of the Midnight Sun, she is uncertain how to tell time because the sun never rises or sets. Tova wonders how she will know when Sabbath begins or ends. Eventually, she talks to a wise orca. The whale shares her secret to understanding time with a circular sun and…


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