Hap­py Birth­day, Tree!: A Tu B’Shevat Story

Made­lyn Rosen­berg; Jana Christy, illus.
  • Review
By – February 20, 2013
How do you give a tree a birth­day par­ty? Why? Imag­i­na­tive answers arrive in a delight­ful pic­ture book with charm­ing cen­tral char­ac­ters and a firm grasp of the hol­i­day mate­r­i­al it explains. Tu B’Shevat is the Birth­day of the Trees, but Joni’s favorite tree does not know it. Cer­tain­ly, her tree is not cel­e­brat­ing. Joni and her neigh­bor, Nate, puz­zle over how to give a tree a par­ty. Start­ing with basic care, water and sun­shine (here deliv­ered in a deli­cious only a child could think this’ con­cept), they move on to cup­cakes, a bird, then tree friends (anoth­er adorable child’s idea). Fail­ing, they expand to par­ents and a trip to a nurs­ery to buy a baby tree to plant. The book clos­es with a mov­ing promise, a prayer and a rous­ing par­ty includ­ing many neigh­bors and cel­e­bra­to­ry fan­fare. Even the trees seem to respond at the story’s fin­ish. The end pages show the holiday’s theme of sound ecol­o­gy; a list of things to do to help the earth is nice­ly dis­played along the branch­es of a huge tree. An open­ing note traces the holiday’s change from the ancient prac­tice of tithing crops to the mod­ern cus­tom of an Arbor Day, includ­ing the Tu B’Shevat seder with Israel’s sev­en species. The book is beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed in a water­col­or look. Its lay­out sup­ports the active move­ments of the art’s cheer­ful, cre­ative, ener­getic chil­dren. Pure fun suc­ceeds; read­ers enjoy and under­stand the hol­i­day in a vol­ume high­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 5 – 8.

Read­ing Guide

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions