Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Arbor Day Square

Arbor Day Square

Kathryn O. Gilbraith
Illustrator:  Cyd Moore 
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Peachtree Publishers, 2010   ISBN: 978-1561455171

Katie and Papa live in a new town on the prairie. New buildings pop up every week, and the town now has stores, a church, and a schoolhouse. In what is going to be the town square Papa paces out the land, planning where paths will go. When it is ready, the town square will be where the townsfolk gather for concerts, socials, speeches, and celebrations. There is one thing that is missing though. There are no trees.

At a town meeting the townsfolk decide that their town needs trees, and they all chip in some money to buy fifteen young trees. Eagerly the townsfolk wait for their trees, and then at last the baby trees arrive on a train. The saplings “spindly and green” don’t look like much, and it is hard to believe that they will ever provide shade and beauty in the town square, but Papa tells Katie “Don’t worry. They’ll grow.”

Together the townspeople, young and old, work to plant the trees in what will be the new town square. They plant trees near the school and church, and Katie and Papa plant a flouring dogwood in memory of Mama, who is no longer with them.

That evening the townsfolk dance and picnic under the stars, and they decide to have a tree planting celebration the following year.

In this wonderful picture book, the author and illustrator tell the story of how a small prairie town starts a tree planting tradition. The author and Illustrator beautifully capture the pride that the townsfolk have in their trees, and the pleasure those trees give to people for generations to come. The tradition of planting trees every spring connects the people to their past, and to their future.

The story is loosely based on the true story about the first Arbor Day, which was celebrated in Nebraska in April, 1872.