Happy Birthday, Tree! A Tu B’Shevat Story
By Madelyn Rosenberg
Illustrated by Jana Christy
Written as a novel about two children looking for a way to celebrate the Jewish celebration of trees, this is an environmental adventure. Joni and her friend Nate think about what will make the trees happy. In the process, they figure out that their tree will be happy if the Earth is happy. They try several ways to please their favorite climbing tree: singing to it in Hebrew and English, trying to blow away the clouds blocking the sun, giving it a party with hats, giving it a tree-friendly cupcake, watering, depositing a paper bird in the tree, and acting like trees themselves. In the end, their solution is to plant a companion tree and give it all the love, water, and sunshine they can.
The author gives a one-page overview of the ways Jewish people have celebrated the birthday of the trees. The explanation should be read aloud and discussed with second graders. Many reading activities could develop from the discussion. However, the very end of the overview suggests a meal (seder) with plants mentioned in the Torah. Teachers need to be careful not to imply that all the species mentioned come from trees. Kids will also learn a lot about being environmentally friendly, a very important subject.
The illustrator does a great job of showing what the children do to make the trees happy. She even includes details such as Jodi’s dad carrying shopping bags with recycling symbols, tips for conservation on the endpapers, and labeling the mulch so the reader knows that’s what they’re using.