Welcome to the first installment of an exciting new feature on our blog – The Touring Book Club.
Every month we will feature a picture book alongside fellow book bloggers Book Bairn, Mamma Filz and Along Came Poppy with each blog exploring how the book has developed play, craft or discussion ideas with our children.
First up in the Touring Book Club is Up in the Leaves by Shira Boss, illustrated by Jamey Christoph and published by Sterling Children’s Books. A true story about a remarkable boy who just loved to build tree houses.
Growing up in New York City, Bob Redman felt trapped in the busy, noise of the streets so found solace high up in the branches of the trees in Central Park. He quickly discovered a whole new city, with paths made of bark, shelters in leaves and huge staircases made from branches.
Feeling at home in the trees, Bob decided to build a tree house, his own special place to lose himself in. Only one day, the tree house was gone. It had been taken away. Undeterred, Bob built again but the same thing happened. in fact every time Bob built a new tree house it was discovered and taken away. His mum started to worry about him, Bob was getting older, when would he start thinking about getting a job like everyone else. But Bob didn’t give up, not on his tree house or his dreams. Bob’s tree houses were getting bigger and better with every build and then one day he was offered his dream job, taking care of the trees in the park.
Elegant illustrations complement this gentle story perfectly with careful details and a soft colour palette portraying the sense of peace that Bob found in the trees. This is a truly compelling story about finding your own way and having the confidence to follow your dreams.
“Each tree was its own world, every limb an adventure.”
Like Bob, we love trees, we even have a Jewish festival where we celebrate trees and one of our favourite things to do is to go out exploring in the woods so this book was a perfect one to read before heading out.
One of the best things about woodland walks is they are absolutely free! There is nothing to set up and they require minimal planning (suitable clothing and plenty of snacks aside of course). They also provide children with fantastic opportunities for free and imaginative play.
My children are still just a bit too small to be able to climb trees on their own like Bob but here are some other things we’ve been getting up to recently in our woodland adventures…
Any large tree with low branches is perfect for making dens. My sons found this den and quickly claimed it as their own! If there are lots of similar trees around you can create your own town with plenty of opportunities for role play. Or it could be a fort, with enemy gangs occupying the other trees, gather your troops and prepare for action. The possibilities are endless, my sons can get completely absorbed in games like this and it is so lovely to watch just how imaginative children can be.
Discovering Hidden Worlds
When you stop and look at a tree, really look at it, there is so much to see; the shape of the trunk and the branches, the different textures and colours, the other creatures and plant life that rely on it. And then of course, there are the fairies. We stumbled across this perfect fairy door in a wood recently so we stopped to investigate. We knocked on the door to see if there were any fairies at home (no answer, but as I told my children, they are too shy to come out when humans are around). Then we looked around for any evidence of fairy life. There were fairy cups and bowls left over from their breakfast (acorn cups) and if you looked carefully, those marks on the bark were definitely footprint and wing marks from the fairies practicing their flying.
Searching for Woodland Creatures
Woodlands are home to so many different creatures from minibeasts to birds and small mammals. A great activity to keep children entertained is to see how many different creatures they can spot or hear. In this wood, many of the trees were growing at the edge of steep rocks. Their twisting roots created many intriguing holes and mini caves that we spent a lot of time peeking into in our search. It has also become a habit when we’re in woods to search for the Gruffalo’s cave as well as the houses of Fox, Owl and Snake from the story so even if you can’t find many creatures you can always make up other things to spot.
Woodlands are wonderful to explore at any time of year but particularly in spring there is so much to see and such a lot of things happening. Why not join in with The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild during June and see how many Random Acts of Wildness you can complete in woodlands.
We’d love to hear about your woodland adventures so let us know in the comments below.
Many thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for sending a copy of this book to be included in the Touring Book Club.Follow @Acornbooks