Nell Plants a Tree

Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

“Before anyone finds out how high they can climb, Nell picks up a seed.”

Nell’s story alternates between her as a child, finding a seed, and her grandchildren playing in and around the pecan tree that the seed becomes. In the first set of pages, we’re told “Before a grip on a branch/and a fall to the ground/and a scrape/and a leap/and a reach for the top,” with an illustration of three children interacting with a large tree. Two of the children are sitting on the tree’s branches while the third is on the ground, reaching toward the tree. The next two pages show one of the children, the girl who had been reaching previously, standing up near the top branches of the pecan tree with the words “before anyone finds out how high they can climb.” The following set of pages simply state, “Nell picks up a seed.” The illustration depicts a girl who looks to be about the same age as the prior three children, but her dress is an older style and the yellow/golden tones of the page imply that this is taking place in a relatively distant past. The rest of the story alternates between these scenes of the children interacting with this large pecan tree and Nell stewarding over the seed that becomes a sprout and later the tree that grows into an essential part of family tradition.

Nell Plants a Tree shows the way our actions today can and will affect the generations of tomorrow. This story depicts an intergenerational Black family in what is alluded to be the southern US. They use good land practices as stewards of this pecan tree, a tree native to the area. Daniel Miyares depicts the interconnectedness of this family with nature through his use of color in the illustrations, evoking a sense of community between the tree and the people who care for it. The repetition of “before” in Anne Wynter’s text reminds us that the children’s experiences are only possible because Nell planted that seed decades prior. Without Nell’s past actions, these children would not have the opportunity to discover “a nest filled with eggs/and a crack in a shell/and a beak pipping through.” They wouldn’t have these experiences with nearby nature if that sprout had not been buried. This story would be effective for introducing children to the concepts of conservation and land care. Throughout the story, Nell’s attentiveness to the seed is shown in how “Nell waters the soil” and “Nell lets in the sun.” She makes sure the sprout has grown into a sapling before planting it in the yard. This story emphasizes the long-term effects of a single person’s actions and could inspire youth climate activism. There is also an aspect of local food in that the tree is a pecan tree, which the grandson uses to bake a pecan pie with the now Grandma Nell. This pecan pie is served during a family celebration that takes place at a table under the pecan tree on the last set of pages. Here, Nell can be seen standing off to the side with her granddaughter, helping her plant a seed.

©2024 ClimateLit (Rachelle Saint Louis)

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Publisher: Balzer + Bray, 2023

Pages: 32

ISBN: 9780062865779

Audience: Little People (4-7)

Format: Picturebooks

Topics: BIPOC Protagonist, Conservation, Earth Stewardship, Ecocentrism, Environmental Justice, Interconnectedness, Land Care, Land Ethic, Local Food, Nature, Nearby Nature, Plant Life Cycle, Plant Needs, Plants, Soil, Sustainability, Youth Climate Activism

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