Arbor Day Square
By Kathryn O. Galbraith
Illustrated by Cyd Moore
Katie and her papa are among a group of settlers building a town in the middle of the dusty, brown prairie. Every week the trains bring more people and more lumber to build houses, fences, and barns. New buildings are erected: a church with a steeple, a store with glass windows, even a schoolhouse with desks for seventeen children. But one thing is missing: trees.
When the townspeople take up a collection to order trees from back east Katie adds her own pennies and Papa’s silver dollar. When the tiny saplings finally arrive, Katie helps dig holes and fetch water. Then, in a quiet corner off the public square, Katie and Papa plant a flowering dogwood in memory of Mama.
Although set in the past, Kathryn O. Galbraith’s gentle story of community building, the timelessness of love, and the power of ritual will resonate with young readers today. Cyd Moore’s full-color illustrations reflect the simplicity of the story and life in a new prairie town, while evoking the complexity of its themes.
School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3—A brand-new prairie town has no trees. “No trees for climbing./Or for shade./No trees for fruit or warm winter fires./No trees for birds. Or for beauty.” A girl and her father are among the townsfolk who pass a collection basket and raise enough to order 15 trees from back East for the town square. When the train finally brings the saplings, they are set out and watered. “Someday, these oaks will shade the bench,” Papa says. “And there, the elm tree will shelter the bandstand.” In a quiet corner of the square, Katie and Papa plant a dogwood in memory of Mama. With their work done, they share their food with friends and dogs while a fiddler plays and the moon rises. These neighbors decide to do the same thing the following year and every year after. The passage of time is marked by trees growing tall and the town mellowing. Katie grows up, marries, and has a daughter who holds onto her grandpa’s hand as they set out new saplings and have their picnic under a flowering dogwood. The final spread shows a modern town square shaded by mature trees that are enjoyed by grown-ups, children, and dogs. Galbraith’s poetic text and Moore’s soft watercolor and colored-pencil illustrations re-create those spring days on the prairie when planting trees was cause for celebration. The origin of Arbor Day, first observed in Nebraska in 1872, is explained in the author’s note.—Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN
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Katie, her papa, and their neighbors order 15 trees for their new town on the treeless prairie. When the spindly saplings arrive, Katie doubts that they will ever amount to much, but her father promises that the trees will grow. Adults and children gather to plant and water the new trees. An evening picnic caps off a day so special that the townsfolk decide to celebrate Arbor Day annually. Years later, Katie takes her own daughter to the celebration, and even today, community members plant new trees and picnic under those planted long ago. Nicely geared to a child’s perceptions and interests, the story unfolds in short phrases and sentences that read aloud well. Charming, naive illustrations in colored pencil and watercolor give this large-scale picture book great visual appeal. An appended note fills in the history of the holiday and references a related Web site. An attractive introduction to the celebration of Arbor Day. Preschool-Grade 3. -Carolyn Phelan