My talkative puppet, TREENA, and I have visited scores of elementary schools, literary festivals, booksignings, and fundraisers throughout the San Francisco region since THE HAPPINESS TREE launched at the beginning of autumn. Together we have fascinated groups of tree-lovers with the tale of ten trees' simple gifts. TREENA is three feet tall, wears her branches in an up-do of colorful leaves-her apples were falling as we began our school tour and now her leaves, once forest green, are changing to carrot orange and russet red. She has pink lips and long eyelashes, and is a tree-mendous entertainer.
TREENA amazes our audience-youth and grown-ups alike- with surprising tree facts. Did you know that the tallest tree in the world is a Redwood named Hyperion who stands 379 feet above the mossy groundcover in a park in northern California? To picture how high that is, imagine 99 children standing one atop another on your shoulders!
And in Athens, Georgia, did you know that an old oak is a certified landowner? A century ago, a man deeded his homestead to his beloved tree in his will to protect it after his death from developers. When it fell over in a storm in the 1950s, concerned neighbors planted a new tree from one of the oak's acorns and that tree is now a revered elder towering over the town.
Now you know why Lisa Bossi, the illustrator of THE HAPPINESS TREE, and I chose a redwood tree to star as the Tree of Happiness and an oak tree to stand for HOPE.
On November 6th, TREENA and I were invited to Stuart Hall for Boys to play forest bingo and teach two third grade classes how to write haiku poetry. 40 eight year old boys sat still, listening to the story of ten seedlings transforming from brave little saplings to a forest of happiness. The boys enjoyed becoming peaceful trees as we practiced the yoga pose, vrksasana, sanskrit for tree posture. They were engaged by the character traits I assigned to the ten state trees, such as compassion, honesty and tolerance ... but they most related to the Tree of Courage since Courage & Connection is their school's theme of the year. Being brave took on new meaning as they studied Lisa's painting closely, admiring how even when the branches of the white pine lurch in a storm, the trunk stands sturdy and brave, bearing steady the bluejay's perch. We talked about how we each can access our own inner courage during difficult times, simply by bending, not breaking, enduring, like a tree.
A week after my visit to Stuart Hall, I received a large manilla envelope in the mail from Mrs. Torrano's class. In it were a pile of letters complete with tree sketches from the boys, thanking me for reading them my "brilliant book," and "sharing all the cool stuff," and telling me how much fun they had "trying to find the birds" in the branches. I loved each and every thank you note but only have room to share the one that put the biggest smile on my face:
Dear Ms. Gosline:
Thank you for coming to our class. I Love THE HAPPINESS TREE. I like the tree of happiness. I like the illustrations. The book was good and calm.
Next to his name was his rendition of a redwood tree with a smiling face protecting a deer from the strong sun.
P.S. TREENA and her story, THE HAPPINESS TREE, are happy to report that they are planting everything good in the hearts and imaginations of children.
Causes Andrea Gosline Supports
Friends of the Urban Forest, Greenpeace, Roots and Shoots