The Witness Trees: Historic Moments and the Trees Who Watch Them Happen
Author: Ryan G. Van Cleave
Illustrator: Ððm Ððm
Publishing May 9th, 2023 by Bushel & Peck Books
Summary: For generations, trees have silently witnessed history’s most pivotal moments. Here are their stories.
In the sweep of wind over grass,
near the pulse of rivers,
monuments of bark
and age-curled green.
Above, an avalanche of stars.
Below, the ocean of earth.
Within, the uncounted lives
birthed, bloomed, and plucked
from the gardens we tend.
In evocative verse and stunning artwork, Witness Trees is the story of the world’s most enduring witnesses: the trees. From the Flower of Kent apple tree still standing in Sir Isaac Newton’s yard, to the English oak given to Jesse Owens after facing down Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the California redwood saved from destruction by July Butterfly Hill, to the Callery pear tree still miraculously alive after the World Trade Towers fell, Witness Trees is a moving tribute to the world’s most famous trees, many of which still need humanity’s protection. Be moved, be inspired, be amazed by the quiet, reverberating voices of nature’s sentinels: the witness trees.
For each tree depicted, there is information about that tree and the events it witnessed. Among the trees lovingly discussed are 20 trees you can visit today.
About the Creators:
Ryan G. Van Cleave wrote his first poem at age five, and he’s been writing, reading, and loving poetry ever since. He earned a Ph.D. in American Literature with an emphasis in poetry and has taught at numerous colleges and universities. Currently, he runs the creative writing major at Ringling College of Art and Design. As The Picture Book Whisperer, he helps celebrities and high-profile clients write picture books and kidlit projects. Visit his blog at https://www.onlypicturebooks.com/.
Ððm Ððm is an illustrator who uses his art to sow seeds of joy. He has illustrated multiple books and lives in Vietnam.
Review: This book is intriguing and beautiful. First, the verse is very well written. It is lyrical and beautiful–it will lend its self so well to reading aloud. Second, the art is superb! It is realistic, colorful, eye catching, and breathtaking! Third, the idea of this book is just so fascinating. I, obviously, knew trees had been around much longer than most of us could imagine, but to see the timeline included in the book and all of the history included within just blew my mind.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be amazing to take each of the Witness Trees and let a group of students learn more about the historical event as well as the tree that witnessed it. Each group could then present to the class. (Please note that many of the events are tragic, so choose the events and students for each wisely.)
Also, at the beginning of the book, the author includes some trees that aren’t included in the book, so students could take each of these books and create their own spreads with a poem about the tree based in its history.
- How does the author’s choice of verse affect the tone of the book?
- How did the illustrators structure of putting the tree on one side of a spread and an illustration related to the history on the other side add to the history shared?
- What makes trees so amazing? What about these trees specifically?
- What time in history do you wonder if there is a Witness Tree for it? (Extension: Have students research and see if there is one.)
Read This If You Love: History, Interest in trees, Picture books in verse
**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review!**