Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2018 issue.
Stand in tree pose. Stretch your limbs high to the sky.
Root down. Branch out. Reach up. Stay steady. Strong.
Grow your tree. Imagine possibility.
What can we learn from the trees? Especially, the Tall Tall Trees, those magnificent coastal Redwoods?
Award-winning children’s author, Tony Fredericks, was so inspired visiting these giants that he created Tall Tall Tree, just released by Dawn Publications. Tony shares with us about their significance and the surprises revealed in his new book.
How can we grow and learn from the trees?
Resolute sentinels of time, trees consistently engender admiration and affection. Sixty thousand species have been celebrated by generations of botanists (both amateur and professional), as sources of wisdom, sacred beings, metaphors for youth and old age, for their solidity and sagacity, and for their ancestral roots and evolutionary resilience. They have been consulted by holy men, emperors and despots; praised by commoners and poets; revered by popes and disciples; and admired by commoners across the globe.
Trees are graceful, irascible, magnificent, muscular, demure, sanguine, and quite often, just plain awesome. We have built our shelters in them, with them, and among them. In Africa, baobab trees have been used as prisons and classrooms. In Ireland, hollow trees became hermitages for Dark Age monks seeking solitude and penance. In India, fig trees are an embodiment of the human psyche and a dwelling for the gods. And in every civilized country, trees have been revered for their commercial value, environmental luster and visual splendor.
They are, without argument, botanical companions and environmental educators.
What is unique and special to Tall Tall Tree?
I’ve been writing children’s books about nature for approximately 30 years, not only to help kids find answers to their questions about the world, but also to generate more questions for them to go out and discover. Kids have a natural curiosity, and as a former teacher, I hope to nurture it.
When I returned from the amazing Redwoods, I knew there was a story waiting to be written. My visit and research had uncovered a big surprise … there’s an entire world of creatures living high up in these towering trees, in a different climate range, rarely seen by humans! Scientists never believed it until a few people began to climb the titans. Counting up through ten species, I reveal this magical realm to my audience. A garden in the sky! Chad Wallace’s exquisite color illustrations with hidden animals and shared activities for parents and kids, complete this interactive concept book.
How do trees influence your everyday?
I practice mindfulness on my daily walks through the woods, around the neighborhood, or in a nearly park or forest. Our Pennsylvania home is situated on four wooded acres — a delightful montage of tulip poplar, maple, hickory and oak trees — also safe haven for a menagerie of wild critters and birds. It is our refuge and my retreat. Being among trees brings a mental serenity, a release of tension, and a deep awareness of being present and available. Of course, a blue sky day, warm breezes, and humming some Clapton or Credence helps too!
So how do you continue to grow your life?
We all have the capacity to grow mentally — whether we are a six-year-old child or a 71-year-old author. I’ve always believed that writing is more about the process and less about the product. There is no such thing as the perfect book or, for that matter, the perfect life. There is always a scene or a situation that could use some change or improvement. We are always in process, we are never a perfectly completed project. Those who stop growing, stop living. Like the trees. I want to be a better writer today than I was yesterday.
A better writer is engaged in a process … just as is a better person. And so I continue.
More about Tony Fredericks …
For 17 years, Tony worked as a classroom teacher and reading specialist. In 1987, he became professor of education at York College of Pennsylvania. He’s a prolific author having published over 450 articles and 160 books. His books include an eclectic array of adult nonfiction titles (e.g. Walking with Dinosaurs: Rediscovering Colorado’s Prehistoric Beasts or The Secret Life of Clams) and more than 50 children’s books. Mountain Night, Mountain Daycelebrates the nocturnal and diurnal creatures that inhabit mountainous regions, specifically Rocky Mountain National Park. His children’s titles have won numerous awards. Recently retired, when he’s not composing at his computer, visiting schools or leading writing workshops he can be found paddling his kayak on quiet lakes, camping in wild and wonderful places, or visiting his children (and grandchildren) in England and Colorado. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Phyllis and rotund Tubby cat. Visit his web site at www.anthonydfredericks.com to learn about his wonderful books.
TALL TALL TREE is available directly from Dawn Publications www.dawnpub.com, 1-800-545-7475, online, or your favorite local independent bookstore. Hardcover $16.95; Paperback $8.95.