The Book Giveaway is closed. Our winner is Josie Clark-Trippodo! Congratulations, Josie! Enjoy this beautiful book.
“Be a tree. Stand tall. Stretch your branches to the sun.” Maria Gianferrari’s beautiful picture book begins with a simple metaphor that extends and expands, connecting the ecology of trees to a message about interconnectedness and our human responsibility to care for, build and sustain our communities. The illustrations by Felicita Salas are delightful. On a page with text that reads: “Your skin is bark; dead on the outside, protecting what’s within,” Salas adds a detail of matching tattoos–a heart inked on a grandfather’s forearm with a twin heart carved into the trunk of a tree.
To mark the publication of BE A TREE, I wanted to create a variation of that perennial school project, the Family Tree–but one that would celebrate the circles of community that kids experience in their lives instead of ancestry. Not all children know or live with biological relatives–but all of them have important people who matter to them. So, introducing . . . the TREE RINGS PROJECT!
Block printing with organic materials (because: trees) is a perfect pair for this project, filled with texture and messiness. Who doesn’t love a puddle of glue, paint, and the surprise of lifting up a print you made to see the result? If it’s too glue-y for you, you can also create a Tree Rings Project using markers and crayons with concentric circle shapes to trace.
Tree Rings Project
- Flat piece of cardboard (you can cut out a side of a cardboard box)
- White glue
- Tempera or acrylic paint
- Brayer (printmaking roller) or paintbrush
- Paper (I used 50% recycled construction paper)
- Trace or draw concentric circles on cardboard. We had fun running around the house gathering cups, bowls and other round objects to trace. Your circles can be lopsided–the rings of a tree certainly are!
- Cut pieces of yarn that fit your circles.
- Now for the gluey, messy bit: squeeze a line of glue along your traced circles. Or, for smaller hands, pour a puddle of glue and use a popsicle stick to spread it on thick!
- Lay the yarn on your circles and let dry.
- Painting time! Once your block is dry, use a paintbrush or brayer to spread paint over the yarn.
- Turn it upside down on paper; press evenly.
- Lift carefully: you printed your tree rings!
Now for Step 8, the most important part . . . start at the middle of your tree ring and think about the place where you feel the most comfortable. It might be home or maybe school. In this central place, jot down the people there that help you grow strong. People you can count on and who can count on you. Move out to your next tree ring. This ring can represent another comfortable place–a grandparent’s house, a neighbor’s house, your after-school group. Who are your “people” there? Add them to your tree ring. Move your way out, considering other places and groups that help you or that you would like to help–the local animal rescue group or a community garden, for example. And voila! You’ve made your circles of community–your personal Tree Rings!
* Teens and grown-ups who don’t want to be left out of the fun but want more of a challenge: try creating a block print of wood grain. My attempt is pictured above and below. I free-handed the design, starting with interspersed spirals (knots of wood) and then adding lines of yarn (wood grain) around them.
To learn more about author Maria Gianferrari (pictured below “being a tree”), go to mariagianferrari.com. You can find illustrator Felicita Sala at felicitasala.com.