Bal Tashchit – Do Not Be Wasteful

While it may be difficult for those of us in the cold northeast to appreciate, at the end of January – on January 30 to be exact – we will be celebrating the Jewish Holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees also known as the Birthday of the Trees. Tu B’Shevat literally means the fifteenth of Shevat, referring to the date on the Jewish calendar when the holiday occurs. Because there are not many customs surrounding this holiday, it has become very popular with the Jewish “Green” Movement. As a result, you may hear this holiday referred to as the Jewish Arbor Day or Jewish Earth Day.

Books appropriate for Tu B’Shevat support the Jewish values of Bal Tashchit (do not be wasteful) and Tikkun Olam (repairing the world).  The following quote says it all:

“See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.” Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah §1-7:13

With that in mind, I want to introduce a few wonderful,  secular books about trees, nature and taking care of our planet that can be enjoyed during this holiday:

A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont. Ages 4-8.  First published in 1956, this timeless classic is a perfect book for Tu B’Shevat explaining in simple language all the benefits that trees provide children and their families. From fruit to shade to the air we breathe, trees are an important and necessary part of our world.  The Caldecott Award winning illustrations further enhance the message, “Trees are very nice.

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The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. Ages 5-9.  If I were to pick an author to write a children’s book to save our planet, Dr. Seuss would be my choice. When Truffula Trees are discovered and their tufts turned into Thneeds, no amount of warning from the Lorax will dissuade the manufacturer from continuing the destruction of the Truffula Tree forest. When the last tree falls, the forest animals have disappeared and the environment damaged beyond repair, the Lorax’s message becomes clear. With his unmistakable Seussian rhyme and his characteristic Seussian illustrations, the inimitable Doctor describes what happens in a world where greed and selfishness take precedence over the needs of the planet, its plants and animals.

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Measuring Angels by Lesley Ely, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Ages 4-8. “Every blade of grass below has a guardian official above.” Zohar (Book of Enlightenment.) In this charming and brightly illustrated book, a smart teacher uses sunflower seeds and flowerpots to help rebuild a friendship. A little girl, who used to be best friends with Sophie, is very unhappy when she finds out that she and Sophie are partners in the sunflower-growing contest. Their flower does not grow at all until…they begin talking nicely to it every day, and together with their friend Gabriel, create a beautiful angel to watch over it. This delightful story demonstrates the power of working together for a common cause and that every living thing needs tender loving care.

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Milo and the Magical Stones by Marcus Pfister. Ages 4-8. Milo and his mice friends live comfortably on an island mountain in the middle of the sea. When Milo finds a beautiful, glowing stone, buried deep in the mountain that gives off light and warmth, everyone wants one. As the mice hurry off to grab their stones, the wisest mouse warns, “Don’t forget, the stones belong to the island. If you take something from the island, you must give something in return.” With two endings, one happy, one sad, you decide which direction to take. You can make comparisons to the choices we make everyday as we live on our personal islands on earth. This is a great discussion starter about the consequences of our environmental choices and actions.

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Once There Was a Tree by Natalia Romanova, illustrated by Gennady Spirin. Ages 4-8. A tree falls during a forest thunderstorm. Its stump becomes home to many of the forest’s animals from the smallest termite to the largest bear.  All claim the stump belongs to them, but who actually owns it? With rich text and magnificent illustrations, the author and artist make the interconnectedness of all living things clearly visible in this outstanding book.

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Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert. Ages 3-8. For the very youngest children, this delightful, colorful book tells the simple story of a how a maple tree found its way to a young child’s yard, how the child helped to plant it and now watches it – and their friendship – grow. The text is simple and the illustrations are vibrant. The back of the book shares tips for selecting and planting a tree at your own home.

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Last but not least,  a new book I stumbled upon while wandering through my local bookstore. The Tree that Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science and Imagination is filled with the most amazing poems selected by Mary Ann Hoberman, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, and Linda Winston. All Ages. It is a perfect collection of poetry for Tu B’Shevat or anytime of year. It comes with an audio CD of some of the poets reading their verse aloud. Here is one of my favorites from this marvelous book:

FOR THE FUTURE

by Wendell Berry

Planting trees early in spring,

We make a place for birds to sing

in time to come.  How do we know?

They are singing here now.

There is no other guarantee

that singing will ever be.

May your Tu B’Shevat be filled with an appreciation and delight in the world around you.  Enjoy these books and allow them to add to your celebration.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my personal collection or my local library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site and purchase it from Amazon, I  may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You,
however, will incur no additional cost. I appreciate your support.

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10 Responses to “Bal Tashchit – Do Not Be Wasteful”

  1. Lori W. says:

    Kathy,
    I enjoyed learning about Bal Taschit and the Jewish holiday, Tu B’Shevat. What a beautiful idea to have a birthday for the trees! The Lorax and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf are family favorites, and though it has nothing to do with trees, I also like Udry’s Thump and Plunk. Thanks for the book recommendations.

  2. I’m checking out your blog after you left a comment on mine. I love the way you’re reviewing a set of books on a theme, and also like the idea of the Birthday of the Trees. I also like your Amazon Associate disclaimer, and may copy your wording onto my blog!

  3. Mary Lee says:

    Welcome to Poetry Friday! Thanks for the great collection of books and information about a holiday that’s new to me, but instantly dear to my heart!

  4. What a wonderful list! The only one we have read is A Tree is Nice. We have it in our home library collection. I am eager to check out the other ones. I just read about a book called Circles of Hope by Karen Williams about the Haitian tradition of planting a tree when a baby is born–I have not read it yet, but am going to look for it at the library this week.

    I’m so glad I found your blog. I will be visiting again soon.

  5. MillyMarie says:

    This is the first time I’m learning of Tu B’Shevat. I think it’s *very* wonderful! The Lorax is my fav. among all fav.’s and brings a tear to my eye everytime I read it. Silly as it maybe. I cannot wait to check out:

    A Tree is Nice & Milo and the Magical Stones.

    Thank you for sharing the lovely poem!

  6. BookMoot says:

    Have you ever seen Thomas Locker’s Sky Tree: Seeing Science Through Art? I love all his books but this one can be used in so many ways.

  7. Suzanne says:

    What an interesting list of books and what a great site. Glad I found you. I’ll be back often.

  8. What an exceptional list of books – so glad to have found you and the list via the Kidlit Blog Carnival. Do you know the yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EcolIt/ ? It’s all about kids’ lit with an environmental theme and I shall post a link to this post there as I think lots of people will enjoy your list.

  9. Homeshuling says:

    My personal favorite – A Tree Named Steve.

  10. Francine M. says:

    Hi Kathy,
    An Orange in January by Dianna Hutts Aston is a favorite of mine for young chldren. “An orange begins its life as a blossom where bees feast on the nectar, and reaches the end of its journey, bursting with the seasons inside it, in the hands of a child.”

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