Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Book Review: Around the Oak

This week, I wanted to review this gorgeous book by the famed Gerda Muller, called "Around the Oak". Muller is the author of the gorgeous pictorial seasonal series found here.

"Around the Oak" is a story about two cousins (Caroline and Ben) who go to visit their cousin, Nick, who lives in the middle of a lush forest. His father, a forest ranger, and Aunt Vera, inspire the children to venture into the forest to learn all about life there. The story takes place over four seasons and centers around a very old, special oak tree.

It begins in the Fall (making this book a wonderful seasonal read each school year)...

The children hike to the giant oak, climb the tree and discover wildlife there. Realizing this, they decide to make a shelter on the ground to observe the wildlife unseen.

They notice the changes that take place day to day and learn to pick chanterelles. They plant trees and immerse themselves in the realm of nature, learning through observation and direct participation.

The children return in Winter and cross country ski to visit their beloved Oak. They encounter some screech owls who are nesting in the tree, as well as observe a marten chasing a squirrel.

The children find Uncle Hank, the forest ranger, with a tree doctor, analyzing the trees and identifying the sick ones that will be cut down. They learn that pollution makes trees sick through acid rain.

In the Spring, the cousins return on their spring vacation and are overwhelmed by the budding flowers and trees. They note the acorns and chestnuts (fruits) that develop from flowers. They take an evening walk with Uncle Hank in search of wildlife and observe several in their natural habitat. They learn to respect nature and keep a respectful distance from the wild animals. At the Oak, they spot badger tracks and sit very still, being rewarded by a couple of animals who come to the watering hole to drink (a fox and a family of deer).

Ben comes home last and showcases his nature collection, complete with classifications.

In late summer, the children return for another visit and notice the early change of some of the leaves. They discuss the cycle of life of the oak tree.

They decide to give their Oak Tree a 300 year old b-day party!

After this, the story pretty much ends and Muller provides various tidbits of information about how sunlight helps trees grow, gaging the age of a tree, tiny insects, birds, leaves...


and animals...

The story ends on the birthday page with Caroline singing softly to the tree...

"Happy birthday, dear oak tree...
I hope you live another hundred

This book is currently out of print, but might be found in your local library or can be purchased used. After checking it out a couple of years ago, I decided it was one we wanted on our shelves and found a nice used copy. I like to read it to the girls seasonally. As a reviewer mentioned, the story alone would probably not hold as much interest for the children, but is actually used as a vehicle to take children along the journey of learning about nature from a book - certainly not as profound or everlasting as learning directly from nature, but a nice place to start or revisit after those nature hikes. Since we're wrapping up our combined lower case letters/nature studies block II, I thought it befitting to review this book today!

The illustrations are gorgeous, as seen above and very captivating! This is a nice book to go through for inspiration and for reinforcing knowledge most of your little ones probably already know :D though their hands on exploration!



  1. What a beautiful book! I'll try to find it used!

  2. Dear Jen,
    I think I love this book! We have two huge oak trees in our back garden. I will go and see if I can find it at Betterworld Books:)
    Jen thank you so much for your supportive words while my father was so ill, I really do appreciate it so very much! You are a wonderful friend:)

  3. Thank you for that wonderful book review. I will see whether our library has it.
    I just ordered a couple of the Jacob Streit books, because we looked at the one you had in your review and it was wonderful. So I had to order some, but in the original language, German.

  4. Jen, I love this book. (I love everything of Gerda Muller's that I've been able to get my hands on!) Thank you for another lovely review!

  5. Beautiful nature book. I learned what that sticky ball is (that is what little miss named it) It's a horse chestnut! I love the illustrations of the different things, almost like a child's field guide.

  6. I so enjoy your book reviews!!! I would so love to find this book it is so beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing such a great resource.
    Your Friend,
    Jane : )