Review summary: How to Plant a Tree is a great gift for Arbor Day, Earth Day or another special event. The book is beautifully designed, packed with interesting tree facts and has few cons. Although one con is significant – I’d overall recommend this book for tree lovers or anyone interested in keeping the planet a little more green.
Product: How to Plant a Tree: A Simple Celebration of Trees and Tree-Planting Ceremonies by Daniel Butler. Published by Tarcher/Penguin; April 15, 2010.
Publisher’s synopses: “The earth’s longest living organisms, trees exemplify nature’s great strength as well as its majestic beauty. Serving as virtual lungs for our planet, trees provide us with food, medicine, and our most versatile building material. To plant a tree is to plant hope, and as an act of commemoration, it literally gives life to that remembered. While it is in-deed a practical book that explains exactly how to plant and care for a tree, How to Plant a Tree is so much more. Drawing on the ancient rituals and folklore that surround particular trees, the author explores their symbolism and traditional uses, and offers suggestions for various commemorative tree-planting acts, such as: a marriage ceremony; a new baby ceremony, a new home ceremony; a memorial for a loved one.”
About the book:
How to Plant a Tree is a surprisingly compact book (9.25 x 6.25in) when you consider all the tree tips and facts packed in. Beyond the wonderful original black-and-white illustrations throughout, How to Plant a Tree doesn’t skimp on information. All sorts of educational and fascinating tree facts are hidden in this small package including facts on some of the most beloved tree species in the world, such as the willow, the oak, and the plum; how to calculate a tree’s age; and how you can use trees to fight climate change.
Butler additionally offers ideas for commemorative tree-planting ceremonies for just about every occasion you can imagine:
- A New Baby: A tree represents life and growth. Planters in warmer climates could choose a mango tree, which symbolizes attainment in Hindu tradition.
- Engagement: A cherry tree planted to celebrate an engagement is the perfect backdrop for wedding photos. It will also provide sweet fruit for the new couple.
- New Beginnings: Turn over a new leaf with a white cedar. While dramatic changes in a career or personal life may be stressful, a tree acts as a reminder of the permanent beauty of life.
- In Memoriam: By planting a tree with the ashes of a loved one, their physical essence will be incorporated into the cells of a tree that will live on for centuries as a reminder of their life.
What I think:
The first thing you notice about this book is the design, which is amazing. Pages are a creamy off-white with a dark navy text and each tree ceremony idea is printed on a midnight blue background with white text, which sounds odd, but comes off surprisingly well and helps if you’re flipping through for a ceremony.
All illustrations in How to Plant a Tree are simple but lovely (as you can see by the images peppered through this post). While simple, the illustrations related to a task, such as tree planting or hedge laying are still in-depth enough to get the point across.
I love how the book is easily split into three sections but that those sections are all interwoven throughout the book. There’s occasions and ceremonies, practicalities and miscellany. Practicalities includes topics like how to plant and protect a tree, how to graft a tree, how to clone a tree, how to use timber responsibly and more. Miscellany covers various tree types in depth but succinctly. Each individual topic, tree or ceremony topic is just two pages in length, so these are perfectly bite-sized tips and easy to digest.
The tree planting sections are well thought out and easy to follow. You’ll be able to plant a tree after reading this book, even if you’ve never done so before.
All the ceremony ideas are really interesting. Of course we’ve all heard of planting a tree for a new baby or in memory of a passed loved one, but this book goes beyond the basics. There are tree ceremony ideas for marriage, anniversaries, health, prosperity, a new home, fertility, coming of age and more. Each ceremony offers tree species suggestions, inspiration for planting and useful tips for keeping it all organized and special.
Were there any negatives?
- From what I can tell this book was not published on recycled content, or FSC certified paper. This is normally a huge pet peeve of mine, but it’s extra shameful when you consider that this is such a lovely eco-minded book and one that promotes tree love in particular.
- No digital version available.
- Some terms should be better explained when they first appear – for example sentences like, “While smaller woodland species, such as hazel, were coppiced.” Now, for people really into trees, “Coppiced” might make sense. However, if you’re not up on your tree terms you’d be lost because there’s not an explanation given after that sentence. Coppicing, by the way, is explained later (pages 52-53) but it first pops up in the introduction. This doesn’t happen a lot in the book, but since it’s a book for anyone, not just people in the tree biz, terms should be explained right away.
4 out of 5 little trees. I took off one entire point because it’s not printed in a sustainable manner. Other than that though, the content is excellent and the design lovely. I’d recommend this book if you’re looking to learn more about trees or looking for a book that offers tree ceremonies that span your lifetime. I also think it’s a great book for families because the topics aren’t so long that they’d bore a child and it’s educational but still entertaining. You and your kids can easily browse How to Plant a Tree together.
- Buy at Amazon – How to Plant a Tree: A Simple Celebration of Trees and Tree-Planting Ceremonies.
- Learn more about this book at Penguin.