About the Holiday
Trees are some of the most majestic, surprising, and giving things on Earth. The glorious beauties that make up our forests provide shelter, shade, and food to countless birds and animals and fruit trees around the world provide nutrition all year long. Trees’ root systems hold soil in place, and their leafy branches work as wind breaks on flat prairie land. The foliage of trees and plants provide us with oxygen and clean our air. Today, we celebrate all of these benefits and more. To participate, consider planting a tree in your own yard or contributing to an organization dedicated to protecting our forestland.
Oliver, The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth
Written by Josh Crute | Illustrated by John Taesoo Kim
Sherman towers over all the other trees in the forest. In fact, “he is the largest living thing on Earth, and, boy does he know it.” A sign at the base of his trunk even proves it. People from all over the world come to see him, take pictures, stretch their arms around a tiiiny part of him, and even eat their lunch nestled next to his roots.
There’s another tall tree in the forest—Oliver. “He is the second-largest living thing on Earth, but there isn’t a sign for that.” Visitors to the forest hardly give him the time of day, and even though he’s 268.1 feet tall, “he often feels invisible.” One day, he decides he was going to change the dynamics. All year long, he worked on growing bigger—and he did. Unfortunately, Sherman had also grown.
“Oliver wilted.” And while he was bent over, he noticed Agnes. Agnes “is the third-largest living thing on Earth” and stands 240.9 feet tall. But she wasn’t all Oliver saw. There was also Gertrude, Peter, Guadalupe, and Lars—all in descending order. “Oliver waved shyly.” Suddenly, Oliver had a change in perspective. Now, he stands proud and happy because he realizes “he is part of something larger”— the Sequoia National Forest.
Back matter reveals that even General Sherman isn’t the largest living thing on Earth—that distinction goes to the Humongous Fungus in Oregon. It also includes a discussion about sequoias as well as several other first- and second-largest things on Earth.
In his spare, but compelling story, Josh Crute reveals a truth that often gets overlooked in the competitive nature of the world today: no matter how hard one works to be the best, the biggest, or the most renowned, there is usually someone or an up-and-comer who can or will best them. Crute ingeniously uses the example of the Sequoia National Forest to show readers that true happiness comes from doing their best, being true to themselves, and recognizing that they are an important part of something bigger, which might include their group of friends, their class, a team, an organization, and definitely their family and the world at large.
John Taesoo Kim’s anthropomorphic trees include the actual General Sherman Sequoia, here with a muscular-looking trunk and sporting a leafy hairdo and beard along with bushy hands and several offshoots. Images of people with arms outstretched and sitting at the base of Sherman will impress kids with this tree’s grandeur. Oliver, with striking foliage of his own, appears thinner even though he too towers over the other trees. His work-out routine shows results, encouraging children to develop their own talents and personal style. When Oliver notices all the other tall trees in the forest, this confident crew—made up of all different sizes and personalities—shows him that they all have their place and role in the forest.
A straightforward and reassuring look at how readers can consider their place in the world, Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.
Ages 4 – 8
Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624145773
To learn more about John Taesoo Kim, his art, and his animation, visit his website.
National Love a Tree Day Activity
Paper Plate Tree
On Earth Day children love planting trees in their yard or as part of a community project. With this easy craft, they can also plant a tree on their wall or bulletin board.
- Two paper plates
- Paper towel tube
- Brown craft paint
- Green craft paint (using a variety of green paints adds interest)
- Paintbrush, cork, or cut carrot can be used to apply paint
- Glue or hot glue gun or stapler
- Paint the paper towel tube brown, let dry
- Paint the bottoms of the two paper plates with the green (or other color) paints, let dry
- Flatten about 4 inches of the paper towel tube
- Glue or tape the flat part of the paper towel tube to the unpainted side of one paper plate
- Glue the edges of the two paper plates together, let dry.
- Straighten the tree so that it can stand up, or hang your tree on a wall, bulletin board, in a window
You can find Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth at these booksellers
Picture Book Review