Lately I’ve been thinking about grandparent – grandchildren relationships. I’m grateful for the ones my children enjoy with all four of their grandparents and am intensely curious how the relationships will morph, even as the oldest has just entered the tween years.
So The Saga Tree by Sophia Huang was a heartwarming read on so many levels.
Lessons from The Saga Tree
The debut title in Armour Publishing’s Nature Playtime Series, Sophia has woven a simple yet rich tale of little Emma who is best friends with her sixty-seven year old Popo.
Popo shows Emma the old ways of play from “back when we didn’t have any toys”, when the seeds, flowers and leaves of local plants were playthings. Specifically, it harks back to a time when the deep red seeds of the saga tree and a fertile imagination would provide endless hours of occupation.
How many of you don’t have childhood memories of foraging around the base of a saga tree hoping to spot a red gem or two amidst the brown and green? Or of the elation of stumbling across a freshly-split pod bursting with treasures for your burgeoning collection?
Inspired by the author’s mother who would “often stop by the roadside to show me something fascinating about nature”, the tale, brought to life by Paula Pang’s vivid illustrations, aims to inspire parents to take their children exploring outdoors. And that it does, I must say.
My older two spent hours when they were younger under the saga trees in our neighborhood, and continue, as boys will, to squabble over the occasional spoils from the tree outside their school gate. Once the toddler stops mouthing everything, I’m sure we’ll be back under the neighborhood trees again.
Saga seeds are, incidentally, toxic if ingested raw, but edible when cooked. The author has included this and a host of other facts about the saga tree in an informative “Ask Popo” section. There is even a link to an online map that will help you locate saga trees near you!
In addition, a section on suggested activities involving saga seeds makes this a perfect companion to a unit study on the saga tree for the younger ones.
There are 5 other titles in the series. Touch–Me-Nots was released in May 2018, and expect Emma and Popo to further explore Ixora flowers and the Rubber, Flame of the Forest and Casuarina trees within the year. Such a great introduction for the kids to our local flora!
A Heartwarming Tale
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The Saga Tree is pitched as a Level 3 reader, for “increasingly confident readers”. I would nonetheless recommend it as a book for parents and even grandparents to read together with your little ones.
As Emma and Popo count their haul from a day’s outing under a time-worn tree, dropping each crimson seed into a glass jar, Emma innocently asks Popo if her number (age), will be one hundred, like the number of seeds in the jar. In a moment that brought a lump to my throat, Popo assures her granddaughter that while physically she might not, her love for Emma will endure.
Touching on the themes of our local natural heritage, imagination-fuelled outdoor play and intergenerational relationships, this book – and hopefully its companion titles – will be valuable additions on the library shelves of any Singaporean child.