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Old Elm Speaks in the Classroom

About writing Old Elm Speaks

Awards | Reviews

Table of Contents


by Kristine O'Connell George
Pictures by Kate Kiesler
CLARION BOOKS  A Houghton Mifflin Imprint
ISBN: 0395-876-117
Ages 6 to 10

Barnes and Noble
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  & wonderful children's bookstores such as:

   Bank Street Bookstore
   Children's Book World
   Mrs. Nelson's



Kate Kiesler, illustrator of Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems
Learn more about the illustrator, Kate Kiesler.

Purchase using the links above and referral fees are donated to Kickstarter & Donors Choose. Thank you for helping to support these terrific causes.


Wow! Old Elm Speaks Tree Poems will be second-grade mentor text for Lucy Calkins' new CCSS writing program: Units of Study



Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems - jacketThis tree across the stream is a trickier bridge than it might seem... The author of The Great From Race and Other Poems has created a collection of short poems that celebrate trees and the amazing variety of ways they touch our lives. Deceptively simple verses reveal what trees think about and what they say to one another, as well as how they look and all the things they do for us. Humor and an unerring ear for the sounds of language make these poems an irresistible read-aloud; the luminous oil paintings evoke a country setting and the children who enjoy it through the year.


"The delightful use of language plays on the senses as it creates word pictures that are sure to entertain.  The selections beg to be read aloud and shared."  School Library Journal, starred


Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems
                            in the Classroom

Tabletop display of students' tree poems

Don't miss the Teacher's Guide page!

"My Favorite Tree" writing exercise
"Tree Voices" writing exercise (Mask Poems)
Maple Seed Science
 Tree-ific Tree-ish Links

Kids Read in San Ramon, CA (This was so much fun!)


Elementary School Bulletin board - Old Elm Speaks

About Writing Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems


"Tree has staked its claim

anchoring itself firmly to earth.

Tree owns this place in the universe..."


Writing OLD ELM SPEAKS took me deep into the landscape of  childhood memories. I have always loved the quiet dignity of trees and in writing these thirty poems, I tried to honor tree's "place in the universe."  

I was the kind of kid who always noticed trees; I still remember specific trees from homes in Colorado, Texas, Oregon, Ohio and Idaho.  ("This Blue Spruce" is now over thirty feet tall!) 

Family vacations to Colorado inspired "Fly Fishing on the Crystal River," and "Woods' Lake."  I saw the devastation of "Avalanche" outside Marble, Colorado.  Two horses "sharing" a strip of shade on a drive to Durango inspired "Cooperation."

I first met the itinerant maple shoot in "Maple Shoot in the Pumpkin Patch" when it "helicoptered" past my kitchen window.  Suddenly, I found myself wondering: Where had it been? Where was it going? (I finished the dishes
after I wrote a first draft of this poem.)  And, the title poem, "Old Elm Speaks" was inspired by the view of the Chinese elm outside my office window as it "snagged" the moon.

I was thirteen when I first saw a giant sequoia.  I saw them again recently as an adult on a trip through Kings' Canyon and Yosemite; I was as awestruck as I was the first time.  I bought a small sapling (about six inches high) to plant at home.  Just think, in 2,000 years....

In the meantime - while we're waiting for the giant sequoia to grow - Kate Kiesler and I hope you enjoy OLD ELM SPEAKS: Tree Poems.  

Yours treely,

Golden Kite Award Seal

Golden Kite Award, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators   
Junior Library Guild
Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award, Children's Literature Council of Southern California
Bank Street College Best Book of the Year
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Best Science Books, Appraisal
Featured in Creative Classroom
2 starred reviews

"The delightful use of language plays on the senses as it creates word pictures that are sure to entertain.  The selections beg to be read aloud and shared."  School Library Journal, starred

"As with her Great Frog Race and Other Poems (1997), George conveys a deep understanding of nature, here particularly of trees, in a way that is readily accessible to children. Kiesler's warm oil paintings beautifully complement the poems, making for a totally satisfying experience that is sure to be a favorite of anyone who's ever stopped to notice trees." Booklist, Helen Rosenberg

"...even as the contents are unwrapped there is room for the imagination.  Told from the point of view of an oak tree or a fisherman that snags a pine, this ode begs comparison to Janice May Udry's A Tree is Nice (1955).  A lovely, often luminous collection."  Kirkus

"...Dedicated to "the saplings," this leaf-filled collection would make just the right gift for nature lovers."  Publisher's Weekly

"...together they invite repeated reading, beckoning as irresistibly as a basketful of polished stones.  With this sourcebook as inspiration, readers can experience the thrill of the child in one poem who proclaims, "I hear its heartbeat. I breathe tree." Tunie Munson-Benson Riverbank Review

"...a superb collection ... Kate Kiesler's illustrations are equally as strong and rich as the verses and altogether the effect is dramatic."  Boston Globe

"The team that brought us The Great Frog Race and Other Poems have turned their extraordinary talents to produce an elegant volume paying homage to trees...Readers of all ages will breathe deeply over this exceptional book of true poetry."   
Lee Bennett Hopkins

"What a delight to find among the surfeit of humorous verse for children, a fresh new voice that speaks the language of real poetry...Vivid poems and sparkling clear images will inspire children to look at trees in new ways, to feel the very heart of a tree, even to write their own tree thoughts.  Full color oil paintings by Kate Kiesler picture the singular beauty of trees."
Charlotte Huck  Professor Emeritus  Ohio State University

"As she did in her first collection of poetry for children, George offers glorious images, whimsy, humor and surprises....a keepsake for tree lovers of all ages."  Buffalo News

"Oak's Introduction


"Hide and Go Seek"


"Miss Willow"

"Tree Traffic"


"No Breakfast"

"Beaver Dam"

"Maple Shoot in the Pumpkin

"Tree Horse"

"At Night"

"Tree's Place"

"Fly Fishing in the 
   Crystal River"

"Leaving Woods' Lake, Colorado"

"Sketchbook on Easel"

"Between Two Trees"





"Kings Canyon"


"This Blue Spruce"



"Street Tree"



"Broken String"

"Old Elm Speaks"



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