Very young children have much to teach us about how it feels to be in harmony with life. You might experience that connection when you look into a newborn baby's eyes and see how they seem to reflect whole universes, or when you watch as a newly walking toddler totters with arms outstretched, giggling with glee, toward a fluttering butterfly.
Corinna Luyken taps into this quality in her new book, The Tree in Me. She is the author of two previous picture books — one of them, The Heart, a New York Times bestseller — and is intrigued "by the web of relationship that connects us all." She explains on her website that in 9th grade she read Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace Is Every Step, and ever since then she has wanted to write a book about looking deeply into things to see how the entire world interrelates.
And then one day she was thinking about trees, and jotted down thoughts in her pocket notebook:
“What is a tree? a tree… is water & wind & dirt & sun…a tree is a seed…a seed is a tree... a tree, is you and me…we is tree. Tree is we.” The word-play goes on for seven tiny pocket notebook pages. I am circling an idea. And then, at the bottom of the last page I wrote, “The Tree in Me.” And I put a box around it.
And so this lovely, dreamlike book emerged, full of racially diverse children celebrating their unity with trees. The color scheme — in deep pink, hazelnut, and golden orange with sudden surprises of cobalt blue — would be enough in itself to make you want to pick up the book and share it with a child. But the poetry, written so that any three-to-five year old could understand, also carries the book's mysterious allure:
The tree in me
is part apple,
as Luyken shows children biting into delicious tarts created from the fruit of trees. And she goes one to draw more sweeping connections:
And because there is
a tree in me,
there is wind,
and rain, and dirt,
and a river with fish,
and a sky too ...
On her website, Luyken tells us that "this book was a joy to write and a joy to illustrate. I hope it might, in some small way, bring a little joy to you as well." We would be surprised if her hope did not come to pass once The Tree in Me finds its way to you and the children you love.