Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Lovely As a Tree

Spring is around the corner — a time that brings rebirth and renewal.  I love seeing little pops of green pushing through the ground and baby buds that promise blooms and leaves.  We don’t have a multitude of trees where I live in New Mexico.  There were many where I grew up in Pennsylvania.  I took them for granted then.  Now, budding trees get my attention.  There are some wonderful books celebrating trees, and I’d like to share two with you.

Nell Plants a Tree by Anne Wynter, illustrated by Daniel Miyares (2023), is a beautiful picture book and a new favorite of mine.  Members of the Ezra Jack Keats Award committee thought so, too.  Wynter just received the EJK Writer Award (given to a promising new children’s author) for Nell.  Bravo!

This poetic tale is actually two stories.  Two stories from different generations.  Two stories that skillfully move readers in and out of time and ultimately merge to become one.  “Nell picks up a seed” and the tale begins.  She plants the pecan sprout and lovingly tends the tree that grows.  This is one story.  The other reveals what the tree becomes for her family . . . over generations.  The tenderly illustrated pages are filled with joy and love.  Yes, it’s about a tree, but it’s so much more.

Wishtree (2017) is a marvelous middle grade novel by Newbery medalist Katherine Applegate.  In this magical tale, Red, a 216-year-old oak tree, also makes a difference, not just for one family but for a community — the animals that inhabit it and the neighborhood of humans.  Every year on the first of May people bring their hopes, their dreams, their longings to hang on the tree.  Red has always been a unifying part of the town, but this year is different.  Something ugly has infiltrated.  Something Red, with the help of his crow friend, Bongo, wants to do something about.

 Told with humor and heart, Wishtree is powerful and full of insight:

     “. . . something bad can become something good with enough time and care  and hope.”

     “. . . Making others feel safe is a fine way to spend your day.” 

     “. . . you’re never too old to be surprised.”

     “. . . friendship doesn’t have to be hard . . . sometimes we let the world make it hard.”

     “. . . everyone needs to hope.

I’ve mentioned my love and respect for language in past blog posts.  This book hits the nail on the head, giving us a clear look at how hurtful a single cruel word can be and how another word — a kind one — can be victorious.

Happy Spring, everyone!  Erin go Bragh!