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.
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.