The Kapok Tree

Kapok© Durga Yael Bernhard

On the occasion of Earth Day, here is an illustration from my picture book Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree, published in 2014 by Wisdom Tales Press.  This multicultural concept book features a rhyming poem about a child interacting with a tree – but on every spread, a different child is shown with a different tree in a different country.  The endpapers show a world map, and for older readers, the back of the book has interesting facts about each tree.  Here’s what I wrote about the kapok tree, or ceiba  pentandra, of the Amazon rainforest:

Kapok detail 1The kapok, ceiba, or “silk cotton” tree of Central and South America has a huge, thick trunk with buttressed roots and heavy branches that often grow straight out to the side. Known as an “emergent” tree, the kapok can grow up to 230 feet high, often rising above the canopy of tropical rainforests, where it is bathed in sunlight, enabling the growth of a broad crown.  Young kapok trees produce spiny cones on their trunks that make the tree difficult to climb. Older kapoks create shade and shelter for many birds and animals, including monkeys, sloths, harpy eagles, toucans, snakes, and porcupines. The kapok tree is deciduous, shedding all its leaves in the dry season. This gives the trees beneath it a chance to receive more sunlight. Its fruit pods contain a fluffy fiber that has been used to stuff mattresses, pillows, life jackets, and stuffed toys. The seeds are used in soap and also make good fertilizer. The kapok tree was sacred to the Mayan people and an important source of healing medicine. They believed a departing soul could ascend to heaven by rising up the trunk of a great mythological kapok tree.

You can order Just Like Me, Climbing a Tree, here.

Kapok detail 2

Happy Earth Day to all!  I leave you with an excerpt of a poem from Gary Snyder – his version of the pledge of allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
one ecosystem
in diversity
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.

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