“Every Tree Has a Story” by Cécile Benoist, transl. from the French by Sylvia Rucker, illus. by Charlotte Gastaut

This is such a gorgeous book, and I’m so glad I bought it and FINALLY got around to reading it. I picked it up at one of my favorite bookstores because I couldn’t look away from the cover. I was transfixed by the illustration and knew I had to own a copy, and now after reading it, I’m glad to have this as part of my collection.


Kids Nonfiction — Nature & Environment





From Goodreads

This visually stunning book is an exploration of unique trees—from the tallest Sequoia in California, to a very special forest in India, to a lone Acacia in the Sahara desert—offering a window into different cultures around the world.

Spectacular art enhances twenty fascinating stories about unique species, traditions, and the people who both nurture and destroy different trees from every corner of the world. This beautiful book improbably tells the story of women’s equality in India; endangered species in the Seychelle Islands; and the green belt movement in Kenya—among other true tales of the tallest, broadest, most interesting, significant trees on every continent.

This is the perfect book of bedtime stories for nature lovers. (Goodreads)

My Thoughts

Every Tree Has a Story has just over 40 pages containing about 20 stories about trees around the world, as well as the people who nurtured them, tried to save them, or destroyed them. The intricately patterned illustrations spread across all the pages and are a pleasing, sometimes playful, accompaniment to the stories. And although I call the entries “stories,” they are relayed in a straightforward style and are quite brief, no more than a quarter or so of the page. The book itself is a little taller and wider than the average hardcover book, but the layout allows enough space for the larger type, so that coupled with the straightforward entries allows for quick, easy reading — with maybe many pauses to admire the illustrations.

The book is packed with many interesting facts about trees and the people associated with them. Some that stood out to me include Julia Butterfly Hill, who lived in a tree for two years, without ever touching the ground, to protect it from a lumbar company that wanted to cut it down. The tree, Luna, located near Stafford, California, was over 1,000 years old. And there’s also Sam Van Aken, an artist, who managed to create the Tree of 40 Fruit (and varieties of it), which is an actual tree that bears a variety of fruits (plums, cherries, apricots) all at once. That sounds amazing, and I’d love to see it in bloom. The pictures are beautiful.

I also learned about a village in Piplantri, India, that began a practice that improved women’s rights there. After losing his daughter in 2006, the village chief began a practice of celebrating the birth of girls by planting 111 trees and contributing money to save for the girls’ future. He also ruled that girls aren’t allowed to marry before age 18 so they could instead focus on their education, and the many trees the village planted resulted in a source of income for the village women as well (I cut much to summarize this. The way this came about is interesting and worth reading).

The book touches on traditions associated with trees as well. Such as hanami, the Japanese custom of looking at flowers, which typically take place in spring when the cherry blossom trees are in bloom. I think the Washington, D.C., area has picked up this custom too since the blooming of the cherry blossoms there is a big attraction every spring (many of the cherry blossoms in the area were a gift from the mayor of Tokyo to the U.S. in 1912 to celebrate the friendship between Japanese and American people). We also learn of “the Sacred Wood” in Mar Lodj, an island in Senegal. It’s made up of three trees — a silk cotton tree, an African mahogany tree, and a palm tree — twisted together and is considered to represent harmony among the island’s three religions — Catholicism, Islam, and Animism.

Of course, I learned a lot about amazing trees around the world, such as:

  • The tallest tree is the Hyperion, at almost 380 feet, in the Redwood National Park in California.
  • The largest tree is the General Sherman, at 275 feet tall with a trunk of 52,500 cubic feet (and still growing!), in the Sequoia National Park in California.
  • And one of the oldest trees is Old Tjikko, a spruce tree on the Fulufjället Mountain in Sweden. Its original root is about 9,550 years old, making it one of the “oldest freestanding trees in the world.”

There is also much about unusual trees or trees growing in odd places, which was just mind-blowing to me. For example:

Euphoria by Lily King
  • The dragon’s blood tree is umbrella shaped, but the unusual thing about it is its bright red sap, which makes it seem to bleed when cut.
  • There is also the rainbow eucalyptus whose bark turns different colors as it matures. (Btw, a close-up photo of the bark of one of these trees was used for the cover of Lily King’s Euphoria. I wrote about it in this Beautiful Book Covers post.)
  • The Ténéré Tree was once the loneliest tree on the planet. It was an acacia tree located in the middle of the Nigerien desert, which got so hot the even flies couldn’t survive there, and was the only thing out there for miles. Unfortunately, it died in 1973 when a truck crashed into it.
  • And in Allouville-Bellefosse, France, there is an oak tree that’s over 800 years old in which a two chapels have been built in its hollow trunk.

OK, I’ve shared quite a bit about what this book contains (probably too much, lol), but it’s filled with so many interesting facts that I want others to know and that I hope will entice you all to pick up the book to try.

Art style

I got so caught up in the facts that I forgot to chat about the illustrations too.

First, let’s start with the cover, which is stunning. The cover illustration is similar to the illustration used for the President Tree (one of the largest trees in the world that was tricky to photograph), so it gives an idea of the illustration style throughout. From there, we get the end pages, which are covered in an abundance of black-and-white leaf patterns to give the impression of dense foliage in a forest. The red birds that pepper the cover continue here, leading us further into the book.

The illustrations on the cover, end pages, and table of contents prep us for the wealth of patterns and textures that dominate the illustrations throughout this book. Such patterns and textures are mostly used for the trees to give an idea of the trunk’s texture or the leaves’ presentation (clumped or splayed). The trees are often in black and white, with exceptions for trees noted for their color, such as the cherry blossoms that are known for their soft pink flowers or the Golden Spruce in northwestern Canada. However, a variety of colors are used throughout for the background, mostly shades of green and other cool-toned colors, with pops pinks and reds here and there and sometimes a splash of yellow.

Despite the wealth of patterns and variety of colors, the book’s presentation isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t confuse the eye. There are sufficient empty spaces surrounding the illustrations to balance the heavily textured areas, and the paper itself doesn’t have a gloss or shine, so the colors appear somewhat muted instead of vibrant.

Overall: ★★★★★

Of course, I gave it 5 stars and now consider it a favorite. Sure, it’s for kids, but teens and adults can enjoy and learn much from it too. So I HIGHLY recommend and hope you will pick it up.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

It’s worth adding to your collection or gifting to a young one in your life.

15 thoughts on ““Every Tree Has a Story” by Cécile Benoist, transl. from the French by Sylvia Rucker, illus. by Charlotte Gastaut

  1. Nice! That does sound like a great book, and I agree about the cover, just gorgeous. I’ve really enjoyed going into DC some years to view the cherry blossoms, and have seen many videos of them in Japan. They’re very beautiful, though DC can get so crowded then.


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