About the Holiday
Today is Arbor Day, a national celebration of trees that began as a campaign by J. Morton Sterling and his wife after they moved from Michigan to Nebraska in 1854. Morton advocated for the planting of trees not only for their beauty but as windbreaks for crops on the state’s flat farmland, to keep soil from washing away, as building materials, and for shade. In 1872, Morton proposed a tree-planting day to take place on April 10. On that day nearly one million trees were planted in Nebraska. The idea was made official in 1874, and soon, other states joined in. In 1882 schools began taking part. Today, most states celebrate Arbor Day either today or on a day more suited for their growing season. To learn about events in your area, find activities to download, and more, visit the Arbor Day Foundation website.
Up in the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses
Written by Shira Boss | Illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Bob lived in New York, a city crowded with buildings, people, and vehicles. Walking along on the sidewalk, “Bob didn’t like all that rushing around, the eyes of so many people, all those feet on the ground.” He climbed whatever he could find—onto lampposts, up to his apartment building’s roof, even the wall of the castle in Central Park. At school, Bob felt hemmed in by the desks, small classrooms, and packed hallways.
Every day as soon as school let out, Bob ran to Central Park, where it was cool, calm, and uncrowded. People moved slowly there or relaxed on the green grass. The “trees waved their branches in the air, inviting him to come up.” And so he did. Bob scampered up the path made by the bark and climbed higher and higher using the ladder the trees’ limbs provided. He explored cherry trees, pine trees, beech trees, and oak trees. “Each tree was its own world, every limb an adventure.”
Through the leaves that hid him, Bob could look out over the city. It was quieter and everything looked so small. Bob decided to build himself a treehouse. With scavenged wood and rope, he built a small platform and after school he climbed up to where he could read, think, and listen to the sounds of nature. He even brought peanuts for the squirrels. But one day when he came to the park, his treehouse was gone.
So Bob built another one. This one was bigger, better hidden in the leaves, and had shelter. When rain and wind came, “Bob’s treehouse rocked and swayed—he was a sailor on a ship at sea.” But when the leaves fell in the fall, Bob’s treehouse was discovered and taken down again. In the spring, Bob constructed another treehouse. This one had a long platform and a sturdy house with walls and a roof. Bob devised a rope-and-pulley “elevator” to bring up supplies like “milk crates for tables and chairs” books, snacks, and even his friends.
When the sun went down, Bob stayed and looked at the stars and planets with a telescope he’d set up on the platform. “He became an astronaut, navigating the cosmos.” Seasons came and went and Bob grew older. Each time a treehouse was taken down, he built a bigger and better one.
Bob’s mom worried that he was spending too much time up in the trees. She wanted him to get a job like everyone else. But he didn’t want to spend his time commuting on a crowded train and moving along crowded sidewalks to work in a crowded office. He didn’t want to deal with the noise and smog-filled air. “Instead, he built the biggest treehouse of all. Five levels and a bridge! Bob was very proud.” He even slept there.
One morning he awoke to voices calling up to him. The park rangers were ordering him to come down. Sadly, he descended. But the man in charge wasn’t angry. He offered Bob a job taking care of the trees. Bob enthusiastically said, “‘I would love to work here!’” Even though he couldn’t build any more treehouses, he still spent his days in the canopy of the trees, climbing up, up, up with special ropes and saddle to trim branches and make sure the trees were healthy. Sometimes at night, though, Bob still found his way to a high, leafy perch to gaze at the stars.
An Epilogue, including a picture of Bob Redman sitting on a branch of one of his beloved trees, tells more about Bob Redman, his treehouses, and what he’s doing now.
Shira Boss’s captivating true story of a boy who felt more at home in nature than in the city and grew up to care for the trees he loves is a unique story for all kids who love the adventure of their own treehouse or fort and spending time outdoors. With short staccato sentences Boss recreates the cramped in feeling Bob Redman experienced indoors and while moving through the crowded New York streets. As Bob climbs the trees, Boss’s longer, lyrical sentences echo the freedom of the peace, quiet, and slower pace of life Bob craved. His perseverance in building and rebuilding his treehouses, finally to be recognized for his special gifts will encourage kids who also forge their own path.
Jamey Christoph’s charming soft-hued illustrations take kids quickly from the tall skyscrapers and crowded sidewalks of New York City to the lovely green expanse of Central Park to watch Bob swing from the branches as he climbs higher and higher into the parks varied trees. Readers will envy his agility and view of the city. Readers can almost feel the cooler air and the warm sunshine filtered through the leaves as they turn from page to page. Christoph’s recreations of Bob’s platforms and increasingly complex treehouses will impress kids and adults alike. The final images of Bob working a job he was born to do while still enjoying the trees and the city in his own way will inspire children to stay true to what they love.
A lovely and inspiring book with a unique story that will appeal to all readers and especially those who prefer a life of quiet, thoughtful observation and creativity, Up in the Leaves is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.
Ages 5 – 8
Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454920717
Discover more about Shira Boss and her book, plus a discussion guide with activities on her website
To learn more about Jamey Christoph, his books, and his art, visit his website.
Arbor Day Activity
Climb a Tree! Word Search
There are so many kinds of trees that make our world beautiful. Can you find the names of twenty threes in this printable puzzle?
Climb a Tree! Word Search Puzzle | Climb a Tree! Word Search Solution
You can find Up In the Leaves: The True Story of the Central Park Treehouses at these booksellers
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million
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Picture Book Review
Yes! I imagined him to be an old man, but he is an attractive young man. He and the author are married!
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I didn’t realize Bob and Shira are married! That makes the story all the more endearing. There is a picture of Bob in the epilogue. He looks very happy sitting on a huge tree branch. I added that to the post. Thanks for sharing this with me!
This sounds wonderful! I just ordered it and can hardly wait to read it.
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That’s so great to hear! This is such a happy story of a really unique person.