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A Book About Trees for Children

Guest Post by Jenea Havener

5 Reasons This Book is a Must-Read, Even if It’s For Kids

A Tree Is Nice, by Janice May Udry, has been beloved by my children and myself for many years. 

Clearly. It’s in tatters. 

I don’t know how we acquired the paperback we own; it was originally published in 1956, but inside the cover remains a sticker with the name of the original owner, given to her in 1989, so ours was obviously a later print. 

It won the Caldecott Medal, which proves it’s been beloved by others, too, but it was unknown to me until I reached in the book basket at bedtime one night. Once I did, the book became an instant favorite to read to my children. Simple, sweet and quietly poignant.

Here Are Five Reasons This Book Is Wonderful

1. The title is awesome. I love simplicity, and this title is as wonderfully plain as it gets. It says it all in four short words and is the understatement of the millennia if you know your tree science. I also like understatements.

2. The reasons listed for the tree being nice are all kid-friendly, yet happily affirmed by any adult who recalls being a kid herself. (i.e. you can take a nap in its shade, roll around in its leaves in fall, play pirate ship in its branches). I read that Udry once said the test of a good children’s book is that it “will not bore an adult.” This one, for any adult with fond memories, passes that test. 

3. On the page where Udry describes how nice it is to plant a tree, and how one does so, she ends with “You hang the shovel back in the garage.” I love that she includes this detail. It’s very 1956.

4. The illustrations go back and forth between color and black and white, page by page, which, even if done for budgetary reasons, adds interest. 

5. I’m all about noticing—observing the world around me and slowing down enough to really see the details. Most of all, this book promotes that endeavor. I would venture to guess, if a scientific study was done, researchers would find that, just as when humans sit in nature for a bit (here’s an article on one such study), people’s stress levels would decrease during the course of reading this book. And they would find themselves smiling when the last page was read.

It’s that meditative and sweet. And all in the service of tree-loving, which I wholeheartedly support.

Here’s a link to buy A Tree Is Nice on Amazon (and while you’re there, you can pick up my dad’s book too!), or even better, buy it from our fabulous local bookstore, the Raven.

Jenea Havener is a writer and editor, and the daughter of J.R. Hooge. Aside from working on her own writing, she has worn many hats to publish J.R.’s novel, Leafensong: First Telling, from content and copy editor, to project manager, to P.R. agent. She is thrilled to have helped him make his dream a reality. To read some of her non-fiction pieces, visit www.plumbpages.com.

To read an article KCUR did about J.R.’s book and Jenea’s involvement in getting it published, click here.

For a list of interesting facts about trees, click here.


  1. Dawn Trent says:

    I need to add further clarification about Jenea’s possible reading the book as a child! Suzanne Gilbert was not only the director of Johnnie Appleseed Preschool, housed in our church, she was the Sunday School teacher for preschoolers. The Sunday School class often enjoyed hearing and looking at the same books that the school used. A Tree Is Nice is a great book to remind children that God made a thing of such beauty and usefulness when He made a tree – God was the first tree lover!

  2. Dawn Trent says:

    Jenea, you really like that book! There may be another reason, more than you remember…If you were young enough to be in one of the first classes of Johnnie Appleseed Preschool, you had that book read to you. That book was used by Suzanne Gilbert, director and teacher of Johnnie Appleseed, who also liked so much of nature and wanted young students to learn about it!

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