The Mangrove Tree – Perfect Picture Book

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families

Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, Authors

Susan L. Roth, Illustrator

Lee & Low Books Inc., Non-fiction, 2011

Suitable for:  Grades 1-6

Themes:  Mangrove Forests, Ecological Transformation, Food Production

Opening/SynopsisBy the Red Sea, in the African country of Eritrea, lies a little village called Hargigo.  The children play in the dust between houses made of cloth, tin cans, and flattened iron.  The families used to be hungry too.  But then things began to change…all because of a tree.   A Japanese scientist, Dr. Gordon Sato, came up with an idea to plant mangrove trees by the shores of the salty Red Sea because their roots and leaves help them live in salty water.  He enlisted the support of the women to plant the mangrove seedlings, and in return they earned money.  They planted over 200,000 trees which became a leafy forest four miles long.  The trees provided fat leafy food for the goats, sheep and cows, which in turn fed hungry families.  The mangrove trees helped the fishing industry in Hargigo.  The people use every part of the mangrove tree.  Dry branches are used for fires that cook food for families. There is more meat to eat and nourishing milk to drink.  There is shade from the heat.

Roth and Trumbore have written a captivating picture book, that alternates with verse on the left side of the story for younger children and straightforward text on the right for older kids.  Roth’s  illustrations are a unique mixed-media collage of a variety of natural textures that represent many of the items that would be found in the village.   A part of the proceeds from the book go to The Manzanar Project to support the mangrove tree planting project.

What I like about this book:  This is a remarkable story about how one man made a difference by coming up with a simple solution to feed the poorest people living in the desert.   He ultimately transformed this poor village into a self-sufficient community.  They feel pride and ownership for their hard work.  Dr. Sato continues to dream of planting mangrove forests in many parts of the world, including Peru, Mexico,  Somalia, and in desert areas like the Sahara in Africa and Atacama Desert in South America.  Dr. Sato is a great role model for kids to learn that they too can make a difference.  This is an important book for elementary and middle grade students.

Activity:   This beautiful book teaches kids about ecology and finding solutions to feed a hungry world.  There is a lengthy Afterword in the back of the book with photos of the  work performed by the villagers.  It  is just as interesting as the book.   There is a glossary and interesting web sites.  Teachers can use this wonderful resource to encourage kids to discuss and brainstorm how they may individually or as a group make a difference in their school, community or world.  It may be as simple as contributing to a food bank, visiting veterans, picking up the trash on the school property, or planting trees around their school and community areas.  The possibilities are endless.  Everyone can make a difference.  Other resource links: Ecology Kids -Ecology Global Network.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco

Summer Brenner, Author

Brian Bowes, Illustrator

PM Press, June 2011, Paperback

Suitable for: Pre-teen Fiction,  (Ages 9 and Up)

Themes:  Homeless, Poverty, Hope, Friendship

Ivy Homeless in San Francisco, is a compelling and riveting novel that reflects the alarming increase in the number of children who are homeless and living in poverty in America.  Ivy is one of those children.  Summer Brenner has masterfully crafted a book that is realistic, heartbreaking and funny.  It won  the 2011 Silver Award Winner for the Children’s Literary Classics Book Awards under the category of pre-teen fiction, and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.  This is a  book that should be required reading for kids in Grade level 4 and up, because the face of homelessness is changing.  It offers students insight into the lives of those who live on the streets or in shelters.

Ivy is your average 11-year-old girl who lives in an artist loft with her father, Poppy.  She attends school and has a circle of friends.  One day everything changes when Poppy loses his job and  they are evicted from their home.  Ivy and her father find themselves homeless, living in sleeping bags in the park above the city at night, eating in shelters, and washing and brushing their teeth in public restrooms.  Ivy is embarrassed her friends will find out at school.   Because they are always on the move, Ivy begins to miss school.  Her classroom becomes the life she’s living, with nature lessons, visits to museums and libraries with Poppy.  Life may be harsh among nature’s elements, but it can also bring resilience, hope, adventure, quirky new friendships, kindness and an unexpected surprise.

 Reach and Teach is a peace and social justice learning company, transforming the world through teachable moments.  To learn more about homelessness and to find educational resources, lesson plans, and concrete ways to get involved in reducing the impact of homelessness on people of all ages, please visit  Recent studies show that one in 50 kids are homeless.  That represents 1.5 million children a year.  For more information contact the National Center on Family Homelessness and the National Association for the Education of  Homeless Children and Youth.