About the Holiday
Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the variety of evergreen trees that grow locally and around the world. During the winter these giants stand out against snowy landscapes with their deep-green needles that retain their color all year around and always offer the hope of spring. For those who celebrate Christmas, the evergreen is a highlight of the celebration. Decorated with lights and sparkly ornaments, the tree is where family and friends gather to exchange gifts and share time together. Look for an Evergreen Day was created by the National Arborist Association to encourage people to enjoy the beauty of these special trees.
Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves
Written by Annemarie Riley Guertin | Illustrated by Helena Pérez Garcia
Little Redbird was taking her last sleep before flying south for the winter when she was thrown from her nest onto the hard ground by a strong gust of wind. When she got up, the pain in her wing told her she would not be able to fly. “‘How will I survive the long, harsh winter winds? Surely I will perish,’” she thought. But then she saw all the trees in the forest and “chirped with relief.” She could build a new nest on a low branch of one of them and find shelter.
The first tree she hopped to was a birch. Politely, she told the tree her predicament and asked, “‘May I live in your warm branches until spring returns?’” But the birch only wanted to look out for itself and told Little Redbird to “‘move along.’” Next, Little Redbird came to a large oak tree. She explained about her injured wing and asked if she could spend the winter in the oak’s strong branches. The oak was surprised by the request and suspicious that the little bird would also want to eat up all of its acorns. The oak shooed Little Redbird away. When she came to the maple tree, Little Redbird repeated her request. The maple told her that it was “‘too busy making sap for maple syrup. I have no time for little birds,’” it continued and sent Little Redbird on her way.
Afraid and uncertain, Little Redbird began to cry. Then she heard a voice offering to help. She looked up and saw “a smiling fir tree.” She approached and told her story again. At once, the fir tree offered Little Redbird a safe and warm place to stay within its many branches. Little Redbird thanked the fir tree, but said that she didn’t have the strength to fly up into the branches. The fir told the little bird not to worry as he reached out his lower branches.
Overhearing this exchange, a nearby blue spruce called out that he would help shield Little Redbird from the wind with his strong branches. “‘How kind of you!’ replied Little Redbird.” Then another voice came whispering on the breeze. It was the juniper tree offering berries to heal the little bird’s wing. Little Redbird happily “built a warm nest inside the fir tree’s branches and waited for winter’s arrival.”
One evening soon after, the Frost Queen and her son Jack came strolling through the forest. Jack wondered if he could touch the leaves on every tree. His mother pointed to the fir, the blue spruce, and the juniper and explained that he could touch the leaves on every tree except these. “‘They were very kind to one of my precious birds who had injured her wing,’” the Frost Queen told Jack. “‘They may keep their green leaves all year round. And they shall forevermore be called evergreen.’” It is also said that these acts of kindness inspired these little red birds to stay and keep these trees company all winter long.
Annemarie Riley Guertin offers a charming and well-rounded telling of the legend of how evergreens got their name and their unique feature that also provides a heartwarming reason for why cardinals do not fly south for the winter. This delightful pairing deepens the meaning of the story by demonstrating that kindness is recognized and often comes back to those who give it. Guertin’s clear and emotionally rich dialogue allows readers to fully appreciate Little Redbird’s distress, the rebuffs of the deciduous trees, and the acceptance of the others. The appearance of the Snow Queen and her son Jack bring a human element to the story that will resonate with children, who are themselves learning to be kind.
Helena Pérez Garcia’s vibrant, folk-art inspired illustrations are simply gorgeous. Set against a black forest floor, the autumn flowers, fallen leaves, and trees in full fiery color pop off the page. Just as in any real-life garden, the red cardinal immediately catches the eye, putting readers’ focus on Little Redbird and her plight. The image of Little Redbird crying is touching, making the fir tree’s offer of help and outstretched branches all the more emotional. Garcia’s imaging of the Snow Queen and her son Jack will enchant any lover of fairy tales, and the final image of a flock of cardinals keeping the evergreens company during the winter is a sight we can all hope to see.
A beautiful tale to share during the winter season or along with other fairy tales or fables, Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and public library collections. Pair with a bird feeder or small evergreen tree to plant to make a gift any child would love.
Ages 5 – 8
Familius, 2019 | ISBN 978-1641701587
Discover more about Annemarie Riley Guertin and her books on her website.
To learn more about Helena Pérez Garcia, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Look for an Evergreen Day Activity
Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze
Can you help the kids sled their way to find the evergreen tree in this printable maze?
You can find Why Evergreens Keep Their Leaves at these booksellers
Picture Book Review