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Today is Arbor Day. Frankly, I am a bit sad. Why?

First of all, I am sad because this year my parents decided to log the small woods that is on their property. They knew I wouldn't be happy, so they didn't let it slip until it was already done. And they were right. I felt loss for the walnuts and oaks who had been standing since as long as I can remember. I miss them.

Arbor day also reminds me of the story of Herbie the elm tree, which is a poignant one. Rambling Woods has a good summary of the Herbie story.

Maybe I miss the trees more because here in the desert trees are small and shrubby. A big tree is a rare and beautiful sight.


In any case, a book that came in the mail this week struck a chord with me.

I will say up front that this is an adult book, it is not written for children.

Keepers of the Trees:  A Guide to Re-Greening North America by Ann Linnea has the details right. It is printed on recycled wood-free paper. Keepers of the Trees

Linnea writes about the stories of fourteen men and women who are dedicated to conserving trees, including herself. She includes people from a diversity of outlooks, races, genders, lifestyles and backgrounds, all brought together by their love of trees.

The author has a compelling writing style and sets just the right tone. The book isn't preachy or heavy-handed at all. Basically, it is about the people and their work.

People like Corella Payne, who researches public health issues such as asthma for her job, and then volunteers as a Treekeeper for public parks during her off hours. Corella sees the link between being outside with nature, and overall health and well-being.

The story of Merve the logger stands out in my mind because of my recent experiences. Merve has been selectively and sustainably logging the same spot in Canada for years. Although he has removed the same amount of timber that he would have gotten if he had simply clear cut, the forest remains in place, still viable and diverse. He respects the soil, leaves natural drainage systems intact and tries to take trees that are mostly at the end of their natural life cycle. Inspiring!

The layout of Keepers of the Trees is visually appealing, with many color photographs and figures. In the back is a list of practical things that you can do if you are interested in "tree-keeping." Suggestions include planting a tree, adopting a tree, and mentoring a child.

I think I will take up that suggestion to mentor a child by taking my son to see another cork oak I found out about recently. Seems like the right thing to do on Arbor Day.

And if you are interested in helping a child learn more about trees, check my review of the Leaf and Tree Guide at Wrapped in Foil.

Edit: Tricia has a fabulous list of children's books about trees at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

What are you doing for Arbor Day?

Please read the disclosure page for information about my affiliation with Amazon. Book was provided by publisher.


Looking for children's books? Have you gone to check out the Cybils website yet? The Cybils are awards created by bloggers who specialize in children's and young adult books. People have nominated their favorite books published this year by genre. It is a great way to find new things to read.

I went through the list of nominated nonfiction picture books and picked out some science and nature books that you might find interesting and/or useful. (And by the way, I am a round II judge for this category.)

Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop

Nic Bishop is an award-winning photographer and author, and this book is sure to win him more honors. His photographs of butterflies, moths and their caterpillars are fascinating. Not only does he get close up, but from an unusual angle or catching the subject in action. The photos can stand alone, but he adds a lyrical and informative text as well. If your children are interested in insects, be sure to take a look at this one.

For a more extensive review, see my children's book blog, Wrapped in Foil.

For kids interested in space, we have books released just in time for the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

Check out the trailers:

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh and Mike Wimmer (Illustrator)

Another version of the lunar landing, also well done.

This trailer is longer because it is a TV news interview with the illustrator Mike Wimmer. In the beginning they show some illustrations from the book. If your child is interested in art, the interview shows his studio and Mike painting.

Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet by Alexandra Siy

This one was actually nominated for the middle grade nonfiction category instead of the picture books because the text is more extensive and in depth than the usual picture book, but I thought you might want to take a look. Children's book reviewers have been raving about it since its release. It is about the two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O'Brien

This book really stretches the definition of nonfiction, because it details an imaginary trip to Mars. The scientific details and photorealistic illustrations are what make it credible.

Oceans/Aquatic life

Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned To Swim Again
by Juliana Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff

I already wrote about some of the activities surrounding the release of this book in a previous post.
Winter’s Tail is the heartrending story of a young dolphin named Winter who lost her tail after becoming entangled in a crab trap line. After she healed, she was fitted with a prosthetic tail.

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock and Carolyn Conahan (Illustrator)

Parents might be put off by the word "fart" this title, but don't be. It is a gem of a nonfiction book based on the scientific theme of how animals create and use bubbles. With soft watercolor illustrations and plenty of cutting-edge information, even the scientifically savvy will find something new here. For example, the "farts" are not flatulence, but Fast Repetitive Ticks (FaRTs) made by herring at night as a form of communication.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins

Steve Jenkins is an incredibly popular author of children's nonfiction. Add some out-of-this world papercut illustrations and you have one unbeatable book.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog has a more extensive review with spreads from the book.

And now, check out this really cool widget from Amazon. (I've provided information about my affiliation with Amazon in the the disclosure page - see button in the header of the blog).


This week the hollyhocks will catch your eye here in Arizona. Tall, with large, striking red, pink, or white flowers, the hollyhocks are a favorite.


Certain insects and arachnids also seem to prefer hollyhocks.

Shiny metallic-green flies were resting on the leaves this morning.

long-legged fly

Aren’t they pretty?

long-legged fly

Any ideas what they were doing?

Called long-legged flies, the small green flies are predators waiting to catch other insects for food.


Tiny, pale green leafhoppers like this one are a meal for long-legged flies.

Another fly I found isn’t quite so welcome.

leafminer fly

leafminer fly

This tiny yellow and black fly is an adult leafminer. The fly will lay its eggs in the hollyhock leaves. The larvae will feed between the upper and lower surface of the leaf causing a winding light-colored tunnel. Fortunately the damage is relatively cosmetic (looks only).

leafminer damage

Other creatures already hard at work on the bottom leaves of some of the plants are spider mites.

spider mites

spider mites

The spider mites make fine webs like spider webs, hence the name. In our hollyhocks, the mites quickly build up, causing the leaves to turn yellow and die.

Hopefully, some predators will show up that eat spider mites. Here’s a sign that at least one predatory insect is about to make an appearance. Do you know what the stalk is?


I'll give you a hint:  it is on the underside of the leaf (I flipped it over).