Zee Grows a Tree

zee grows a tree

A fact-filled story about a little girl and an evergreen tree that grow up side by side. Perfect for anyone who loves the natural world—or wonders about the origins of their holiday tree.

On the morning little Zee Cooper is born, a Douglas-fir seedling emerges from the nursery bed at her family’s Christmas tree farm. As Zee and the tree grow up together, they experience many of the same milestones.

When Zee starts preschool, her tree is ready to start life outside the nursery. As Zee outgrows all her clothes, her tree grows taller, too. When Zee gets a whole new look for kindergarten, her tree gets a spiffy transformation as well. And as the years go on, Zee takes loving care of her tree, watering it through heat waves and protecting it from winter winds.

Combining interesting details about how trees are grown and cared for on a farm with the sweet story of a friendship between a girl and her special tree, Zee Grows a Tree offers a blend of fiction and nonfiction that will draw the interest of young nature lovers everywhere. In the back of the book, readers will find an index, bibliography, and an author’s note suggesting some ways to enjoy a holiday tree without cutting one down.---from the publisher

32 pages                      978-0763697549                      Ages 4-7

Keywords:  trees, growing up, nature, fun, 4 year old, 5 year old, 6 year old, 7 year old


“Word of the week is whorl [hwurl] (botany noun): An arrangement of similar parts (sepals, petals, stipules or branches) that radiate from a single point and surround or wrap around the stem of a tree or plant…

Many evergreen trees, like pines, spruces, or firs, have whorled branches that form a circular pattern around the growing tip. Each whorl represents one year of growth, which means that counting the number of whorls can help us determine the age of these trees, especially for young evergreen trees.”

-- High Park Nature Center website

“Talk to the trees

That’s why they take me away”

-- Snow Patrol (2001)

“One spring morning, little Zee Cooper arrived in the world.

The very same day, a Douglas-fir seedling emerged from the soil at Coopers’ Christmas Tree Farm.

In the wild, Douglas-fir seeds need cold and moisture to trigger their growth. At a nursery, farmers wet and cool the seeds, then plant them in warm soil to help get them ready to grow.”

I don’t recall ever reading about whorls, prior to seeing them mentioned in ZEE GROWS A TREE. I had no idea that each represented a year of growth. There is a wealth of interesting botanical terminology and fact scattered throughout this tale of Zee and the little (and then not-so-little) tree that sprouts on Zee’s birth day, and is eventually planted outside her bedroom window.

Over the course of her childhood, we watch both the little girl and the tree grow. Over the years, we see Zee prune and mulch her tree, sit in its shade, provide relief when it suffers heat stress and, ultimately, decorate it for Christmas as her ninth birthday approaches.

Illustrator Will Hillenbrand has been creating picture books for more than two decades. He has a recognizable style that often reminds me of the work of Hillenbrand’s late friend Tomie DePaola. Here, the greens, blues, and grays give the story a soft, dreamy feel.

When Zee decorates her tree for Christmas, it is still alive and outside. The story notes that, “An uncut Douglas-fir can live for hundreds of years and grow to be more than three hundred feet tall!”

Given that trees help mitigate climate change and provide beauty, it would be terrific if some young, budding environmentalists are inspired by the tale of Zee’s tree to advocate for live Christmas trees that can be planted outside after the holiday season.

ZEE GROWS A TREE will engage pre-Ks and kindergarteners with its storytelling, and will be worthy of inclusion in botany and environmental units for early elementary students.

Recommended by: Richie Partington, MLIS, California USA

See more of Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.pbworks.com

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