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The Witness Trees

Historic Moments and the Trees Who Watched Them Happen: Includes a map to over 20 trees you can visit today

56 pages
Bushel & Peck Books

? "A gallery of stately trees around the world associated with times and events both historic and prehistoric..Moving and, as a way of connecting today's readers to significant moments of the past, effective."-Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

A 2024 Notable Social Studies Trade Book (NCSS-CBC)

Nominee, 2024-2025 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Book Awards (MASL), Picture Book Category

Nominee, 2025 Utah Beehive Awards (CLAU), Informational Category

For generations, trees have silently witnessed history's most pivotal moments. Here are their stories. 

??In the sweep of wind over grass,

near the pulse of rivers,

we stand,

monuments of bark

and age-curled green.

Above, an avalanche of stars.

Below, the ocean of earth.

Within, the uncounted lives

birthed, bloomed, and plucked

from the gardens we tend.

We survive.

We remember.

We witness.

In evocative verse and stunning artwork, Witness Trees is the story of the world's most enduring witnesses: the trees. From the Flower of Kent apple tree still standing in Sir Isaac Newton's yard, to the English oak given to Jesse Owens after facing down Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, to the California redwood saved from destruction by July Butterfly Hill, to the Callery pear tree still miraculously alive after the World Trade Towers fell, Witness Trees is a moving tribute to the world's most famous trees, many of which still need humanity's protection. Be moved, be inspired, be amazed by the quiet, reverberating voices of nature's sentinels: the witness trees.

For each tree depicted, there is information about that tree and the events it witnessed. Among the trees lovingly discussed are 20 treees you can visit today.

"Van Cleave's decision to pull on both legend and historical fact works to the book's advantage here, underscoring the idea that trees are witness not just to events in human history but also to the narratives we create around them in our attempts to shape an unpredictable world into orderly stories. The trees have no need for such order, anchored solidly into the earth, and the somber tone and poetic text have an aloof thoughtfulness-not coldly emotionless but distant enough to see an arc of wonder in the progress of the world."-The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"'Our roots run deep-/ they grip history,/ a restless forever,' open the incantatory first-person plural lines propelling this tribute..landscape illustrations comfortably portray historical and geographical scenes..By piling on examples, Van Cleave impresses upon readers trees' enduring power."-Publishers Weekly