All I’ve wanted to do lately is curl up under my blankets and be read a story. In exchange for nearly falling asleep in classes, I wish only to fall asleep to the sound of a comforting, familiar voice.
In celebration of the season of crunchy leaves and anticipation of the coming spring, I’ve selected some of my favorite stories from my childhood and paired them alongside trees that they remind me of.
May we fall asleep as autumn leaves cover the ground, and wake as new foliage grows in the spring.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
This story, published in 1994 and translated into basically every written language, features the Nutbrown Hares, who will melt your heart over and over again. Is this where the “I love you to the moon and back” cliché comes from? In any case, this feels like a story for willow trees. I can picture it already — two hares chasing each other around the willow tree, pausing only to say, “I love you from the end of this leaf to the tip of this branch.”
Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems
This next picture book reminds me of my 9-year-old sister, who still holds onto a pink and white blanket that she’s had for what I think is…well, just about forever (relatively speaking). To me, Knuffle Bunny is also a reminder that the things that we love will always be with us in some way, shape, or form. That, and it affirms my continued love for my plushies. There’s a quiet stubbornness to it, like a walnut tree! Did you know that they’re one of the trees with the deepest root systems? Well, now you do!
Spring from Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel
This list wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of one of the many stories starring lifelong friends (and dare I say…partners?) Frog and Toad. Spring is a poignant and powerful reminder of both the passage of time and the importance of loved ones who remind us to exist fully in the time that we have together. This bittersweet tale of tearing off calendar pages to wake sleepy friends from their winter slumber reminds me of an evergreen oak — large enough to stand the test of time.
Journey to the West: the Peach Garden 西游记 9：蟠桃园 by Wu Cheng’en
Like just about every other Chinese kid, I grew up on stories about this weird little monkey guy named Sun Wukong 孙悟空. Though Journey to the West wasn’t intended to be a bedtime or children’s story, the individual chapters of this novel are packed with life lessons and are just generally pretty fun for the budding adventurer.
In this chapter, the Monkey King eats every last peach in the peach garden (quite an impressive feat if you ask me). Unfortunately for my parents who might be hoping I took another lesson away from this, I’ve continued to take this chapter to mean that you can eat all the peaches in the peach garden if you’re strong enough to defeat the guards they send after you (very literal, I’m aware). Needless to say, this story is…a peach tree!
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
If you’re a lover of the found-family trope, you’ll love this one. Stellaluna, a young fruit bat, finds herself in a birds’ nest after being separated from her mother. She learns to fly — like a bird, but as a bat. It’s a tale of found families, overcoming differences, and bridging gaps between cultures (and species). Stellaluna is an orange tree, because fruit bats like oranges.