Pip and I have a special tree. We pretend it’s ours; we’ve sort of adopted it. It stands majestic at an English Heritage property not far from here. We love it because it’s easy to climb, not just for children but for grown ups as well. The tree likes human visitors. I think that it’s possible that in some point in time, it decided it might be nice to welcome others; to have a little company, so it flexed out one of its big arms and spread its old gnarly fingers across the ground by way of an invitation. ‘Come climb me’ it whispers. And so we do, because if ever there was a tree that was good for climbing, it is this one. Pip needs a little help but with a little care, we can make our way up and sit on a bough looking down over the river below filled with swans, ducks and geese. Pip is always very happy with himself when we’ve climbed the tree. I love sitting in the tree with him. Simple pleasures.
It’s hard to tell how old a tree is. When I was a child, we lived near to a wood, occasionally the forestry commission would could come along and coppice or fell rotten trees and I’d sometimes try and count the rings inside the trunk stump. That was supposed to be a way of telling the tree’s age. I’m not sure if that’s really true, or if it’s just an old wives tale. I always seemed to lose count anyway, before I got to the centre of the stump. I don’t know how old our special tree is. I’d guess that it is hundreds of years old. Planted centuries ago by a man who would never live to see it reach its current lofty heights - a man with an anonymous face who left it as a legacy for the next generation, or generations. In all likelihood our tree will still be standing there when I am just a fading memory. Sometimes I wonder if Pip will visit the tree in years to come, if one day, he might climb it with his own children.
As we sat in the tree last week, Pip mentioned one of his favourite books (about a tree) and it struck me, that actually, we’ve got quite a few lovely books about trees that we read and enjoy. So I thought I’d share them here. If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear if you enjoy them as much as we do.
Apple Pigs – Ruth Orbach
I had this book when I was a little girl. I love reading it to Pip. It’s the story of an old apple tree that no one cares about. A young girl decides to start looking after the tree, and the story of what happens next is wonderful. The tree produces so many apples the girl and her family don’t know what to do with them, but there is an exciting twist at the end.
I love this imaginatively written book because it’s written in rhyming prose, which makes it a joy to read out loud. The illustrations are simple yet striking and the story itself is heart warming. Sadly it is out of print today, but I think you can pick up the odd copy on Amazon Marketplace at a reasonable price. At the back of the book there is a description of how to actually make the Apple Pigs featured in the book. This is something I always wanted to do as a child. Next autumn when our apple tree in the garden bears fruit I am going to make these with my son.
The Magic Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
I loved Enid Blyton as a child. I read so many of her books, but my first and my favourite has to be The Magic Faraway Tree. The story of four children who find adventure in an enormous tree, stretching high into the clouds with magic lands to be found at the top, along with some fascinating characters that lived in the tree and a huge slide that runs all the way to the bottom. I hope that this book has stood the test of time, and that when he’s older, Pip will get as much enjoyment out of it as I did.
The Giving Tree – Shel Silverstein
This isn’t necessarily a childrens book. It’s a book for adults and children alike. The story is a parable - a message about unconditional love. In some ways, this book is quite sad, but it is also very touching too.
This book starts with the words; ‘ Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.’ The tree lets the boy eat her apples, climb her trunk, slide down her branches– but as he grows older the boy wants more and more, so the tree continues to give and give until she has given almost everything that she has. This book is very simply written and illustrated (black and white line drawings) but I think that this just makes it more compelling. Pip and I have read this book a few times recently. Even at such a young age it has been interesting to see how he reacts to this story. (“He's a naughty boy, Mummy. I'm going to help the tree get some new branches.”). I recommend this book - it’s a keeper.
So there you have it, three wonderful books on trees. Have you read any of these? Are there any others I wonder?