Pemba and the Little Green Tree

Children - Social Issues
70 Pages
Reviewed on 10/01/2019
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Shirley J. Starr wrote this book in 1991. When she lost her battle with cancer in 1998, her brother and his wife kept the manuscript in hopes of finding an illustrator who could create the vision Shirley hoped for. After miraculously finding her, in 2017, Jacinda Jacoby finished the illustrations; we were deeply moved with her interpretation. We are excited to get this timeless story into the hands of kids around the world who are fighting to save their planet.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite

Pemba and the Little Green Tree by Shirley J. Starr is a children’s illustrated storybook. Pemba and his family live in a small stone hut on the mountain. They work their terraces, planting and harvesting food for the winter and Pemba and his grandfather collect firewood. One day, when they head up the mountain to collect wood, they see a strange man seated at their resting place. He is the man who looks after the forest and, between them, the man and Pemba’s grandfather explain what causes the landslides that destroy everything in their path. Pemba wants to do something about it and he helps the man plant 100 new trees on the mountainside. This story is all about looking after our environment, about sustainability, and it provides young readers with a look at the challenges we face today.

Pemba and the Little Green Tree by Shirley J. Starr is a great book for kids. It has everything – an inspiring story, fabulous illustrations, and a strong message about the environment, the damage being done to it on a daily basis and what we can do to help. This is wonderfully written, with nice simple language perfectly aimed at its audience and a story that we can all learn from. As a gardener myself, I see the importance of replacing what we take from the earth and wish that many more did too. This is an important story and one that should be a part of school curriculums everywhere. After all, it is the next generation who either has to live with or repair the damage the current generation is doing to the planet!

Mamta Madhavan

An old stone house stood not far from the highest mountains. Pemba, who lived in the house, was building a fire that day. He placed a dried juniper branch on the top when the sticks were hot. The fire warmed the food as Pemba and his grandfather started the day. It had been four days since Pemba had gone up the mountains to look for firewood and his basket was empty. While eating, Pemba always gave one portion of tsampa to the ancient Lord of the Hearth. He always wanted to please the gods. Pemba knew he was born to live in the mountains.

Pemba liked to listen to the stories his grandfather told as they walked together. That particular day they saw a young man sitting on Pemba's favorite rock. He was friendly and he told Pemba that one day he wouldn't be able to get firewood because the trees would be gone. His grandfather also agreed with what the young man said. The young man showed where he was planting tiny green trees all over the hillside. He gave Pemba a little green tree to plant and that taught him if he took one tree from the ground he should always put one back there.

Pemba and the Little Green Tree by Shirley J. Starr is an adorable story about taking care of the environment and sustaining it. Jacinda Jacoby's sketches are beautiful and they give a good pace and movement to the story and bring it to life for young readers. They add color and vibrancy to the story and the characters and make the book captivating. Reading this book will encourage children to become aware of their surroundings and take care of the environment and work towards sustaining it. Parents and tutors should use the story of Pemba to help children understand the importance of planting trees and how one person can make a difference by doing that.

Marta Tandori

The cycle of nature and environmental responsibility are at the heart of Pemba and the Little Green Tree, written by Shirley J. Starr and illustrated by Jacinda Jacoby. Pemba and his parents and sister live with his grandparents in an old stone house at the foot of a tall mountain. Pemba’s parents, sister, and grandmother work the terraced fields next to their house. Soon they will all be plowing, planting, harvesting and storing crops and building stone walls along the mountainside so the monsoon rains don’t wash the soil or their village away, as it did the previous summer to the village beside their own. For now, though, Pemba and his grandfather are responsible for collecting wood for their cooking fire. While climbing the mountain to collect more firewood, Pemba and his grandfather meet a man two villages over who says he is responsible for the forests. He says something to Pemba and his grandfather that inspires the boy to action.

Pemba and the Little Green Tree is a smart picture book that is not only a visually attractive book for children but it’s also an important one because it teaches young children about environmental responsibility as well as the cycle of nature and its consequences. The peaceful beauty of the mountainside, conveyed in Jacoby’s colorful illustrations, take the sting off frightening words like “monsoon” and “landslide”. Starr has chosen her setting well, bringing to the forefront that protecting and replenishing our natural habitat is a responsibility we all share – even in remote areas of the world seemingly untouched by industrialization. Careful in her choice of words not to alarm children, the author also doesn’t shy away from bringing to light the consequences of nature’s strength and how humans are at its mercy. Beautiful, slightly whimsical illustrations and important messages make Pemba and the Little Green Tree a wonderful – and necessary – read for both young children and adults alike.

Joshua Soule

“Change always comes, Pemba. We must think of the new days ahead.” Pemba and the Little Green Tree, by Shirley J. Starr, is a wonderful children’s story about Pemba, a little boy who learns just how important it is to take care of the environment. Growing up in Nepal, Pemba has cut firewood with his grandfather for years. This particular day is different though. As Pemba admires the beauty while they ascend the mountain, they encounter a man. The man explains to Pemba that one day the trees will all be gone. With no trees to hold the soil, the monsoon rains will cause the soil to slide into the valley where their homes are. There is hope, however, and this is explained to Pemba with a tiny green tree being planted.

Shirley J. Starr has created a beautiful story in Pemba and the Little Green Tree. A story that encompasses family, traditions, culture, and the importance of taking care of our earth. Pemba’s story is unique, it is cozy and fun to read--children are sure to learn while they are entertained. The illustrations, done by Jacinda Jacoby, are vivid and colorful, capturing the imagination with exquisite design and detail. Each page tells a story with words and with images, which I found to be most appealing. Pemba and the Little Green Tree is a lovely tale of how even a child can make a big difference in the world. Overall, a very good read.

Deborah Lloyd

In the beautiful mountains of Nepal, Pemba and his grandfather harvest firewood to cook the food in the family’s old stone house. One day, while Pemba’s parents, sister, and grandmother stay behind to work in the terraced fields, Pemba and his grandfather walk up the mountain. There is a man, from two valleys away, sitting on their favorite resting place, a large rock. He explains he is planting small trees as the trees have been cut down, causing landslides during the monsoon season. Pemba helps him plant trees all day, returning home with no firewood. The following day, he is rewarded for his efforts. He learns how one person can make a difference. In the children’s book Pemba and the Little Green Tree, written by Shirley J. Starr and illustrated by Jacinda Jacoby, a valuable life lesson is imparted. The necessity of environmental sustainability is taught, and how one child can contribute to this urgent need.

The story would be interesting to a child and easily understood. Learning about life in a rural mountain culture is fascinating – having porridge and tea for breakfast; walking up a mountain barefoot; gathering firewood – quite different than the modern suburban lifestyle. The colorful illustrations are simply stunning. The amount of detail will keep a child engaged for hours. This is a wonderful book for a parent to read to a child, and it can inspire many conversations on what the child can do to help the environment. Author Shirley J. Starr and illustrator Jacinda Jacoby have created a delightful children’s book in Pemba and the Little Green Tree. A true gem!