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Children's Nonfiction Trees & Forests

Before We Stood Tall

From Small Seed to Mighty Tree

by (author) Jessica Kulekjian

illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

Kids Can Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2021
Trees & Forests, Environmental Science & Ecosystems
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Grade: p to 3
  • Reading age: 4 to 8


Expressive text and art tell the story of the life cycle of trees as it has never been told before --- in reverse.

Here's a lyrical depiction of the life cycle of trees, told one step at a time, based on newly researched information. The steps are described in simple but evocative text, each starting with “Before . . .” for a rhythmic telling. For example, “Before we stood tall, we clothed ourselves in bark and crowned ourselves in leaves, waving eagerly at the sun.” Particular attention is paid throughout to what's happening underground and how that links all life in the forest. Beginning with mature giants, “mighty in the kingdom of trees,” and ending with the promise of new life on the branches that are “hoping to be mighty in the kingdom of trees,” it's a beautiful and loving celebration of the circle of life.

Jessica Kulekjian's skill at seamlessly blending nonfiction information with a poetic narrative sets this informational picture book apart. She also uniquely incorporates intriguing new research on how trees communicate with each other using an underground network of roots and fungus that connects the forest and helps the trees to thrive. Madeline Kloepper's rich artwork with its deep earth tone palette brings the forest and all its inhabitants alive on the page. The material has been vetted by several scientists, including experts on trees, insects and mushrooms. Supported by well-researched backmatter, the book has strong curriculum links to early elementary earth and life science topics, including plants, ecosystems and soil.

About the authors

After a childhood spent outdoors, Jessica Kulekjian studied education and creative writing in college. Now, she teaches second grade and writes stories inspired by her passion for nature, free play and learning. She is the author of several books for children, including Before We Stood Tall, an NCTE Notable Book in Poetry. Jessica lives in central California with her family.

Jessica Kulekjian's profile page

Madeline Kloepper is a Canadian artist who has a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a major in illustration from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Although she grew up in the lower mainland of British Columbia amidst a sea of humans and spent a few years in Vancouver, she has since migrated northward to Prince George. Madeline’s work is influenced by childhood, nostalgia and the relationships we forge with nature. She has also illustrated Little Blue Chair by Cary Fagan.

Madeline Kloepper's profile page


  • Commended, 2022 Notable Books in Poetry, The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Editorial Reviews

Readers who have an interest in environmental science or who just love trees and forests will find this book enjoyable and informational at the same time.

School Library Connection

... a treasure. Its unique presentation will appeal to those who are already nature lovers and may spark that magic moment when a not-yet nature lover looks up with wonder.

CM Magazine

Relax and enjoy.

Kirkus Reviews

Other titles by Jessica Kulekjian

Other titles by Madeline Kloepper