Since becoming a published author, my reading preferences have evolved. Before I was content to grab any book and read it to my children. Recently, I have been educating myself on what literature is and how to write it.

Thanks to this, I’ve come to appreciate the distinction between mere books and literature.

What is Literature?

Literature is comparable to art. While both art and literature can be subjective, good art or literature stands the test of time. Literature offers a timeless and enjoyable reading experience. It is the best of the writing that gets published year after year.

Literature is the book you want to read over and over again with your child whereas a mere book is the one you want to hide or throw away so you don’t have to endure another read aloud.

A Literary Gem for Read Alouds: Nell Plants a Tree

One standout example of children’s literature in 2023  is “Nell Plants a Tree” by Alice Wynter, with illustrations by Daniel Miyares. This book skillfully weaves three parallel plots: Nell planting and nurturing a tree, the tree’s growth over time, and Nell’s expanding family benefiting from it.

The  lyrical prose is a literary delight, making it a joy to read repeatedly. Miyares’ illustrations complement the narrative beautifully, creating a captivating synergy. The book is not only visually appealing but also celebrates diversity in a subtle, tasteful way.

Cringey diverse books?

As a black mom, I seek out books where my children can see themselves represented. But I am [now] intentional that these books be literature as well. Some diverse books are plain cringey – to use a modern term – to me. If the book overly focuses on how “my hair is beautiful” or my “black is beautiful”, I shy away from them. I am sure there is a more articulate way to explain this feeling or decision but I lack the words at the moment.

When I read Nell Plants a Tree, I said to myself “yes, finally a piece of literature that celebrates Black families without the need to literally say “my Black is beautiful”. The beauty just oozes off of the pages both in the art and the literature. 

To me Nell Plants a Tree is truly a diverse piece of literature.

For those seeking a meaningful Christmas gift, consider adding “Nell Plants a Tree” to your cart. 

Ps if you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Pps this is not a paid review or in any way requested by the makers of the book.

Thank you for your time.

From the publisher: This gorgeous picture book shows how one little girl’s careful tending of a pecan tree creates the living center of a loving, intergenerational Black family. Perfect for fans of Matt de la Peña and Oge Mora.

Before her grandchildren climbed the towering tree,
explored its secret nests,
raced to its sturdy trunk,
read in its cool shade,
or made pies with its pecans, Nell buried a seed.