The Cottonwood Tree by Serena Mangus

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Cottonwood trees grow throughout North America and play a critical role in their ecosystems, yet little has been written about them. In this “autobiography,” a cottonwood tree tells its life story beginning when it is only a seed in a bed of fluff, floating over a river somewhere in the American heartland, and ending more than 80 years later when it is toppled by a fierce storm. Along the way the seed grows into a majestic tree, spreading its life-giving branches to birds, insects, and animals.


The tree recounts its visits over the years by a special human who was born in the same year. As a boy, this human climbs the cottonwood's branches to watch the river and dream. As a father, he brings his daughter to visit. As an old man he grieves to see the tree knocked down but rejoices when he sees new sprouts emerging from the stump. He knows the tree is not done yet! Captions throughout the book relate the natural histories of animals in and around the tree, and the backmatter offers further resources.

Serena Mangus (Fort Collins, CO) has a BS in Applied Ecology. As a Volunteer Master Naturalist and Certified Interpretive Guide, she teaches school groups (kindergarten through high school) about local flora and fauna and leads outdoor-education programs for people of all ages. She fell in love with cottonwood trees on a hot day in Zion National Park--lying in their shade, hearing the wind rustle their leaves, hearing the splash of the river--and began to learn all she could about them. She continues to seek out cottonwood trees in all seasons, and one day the idea for this story came to her.

Anait Semirdzhyan grew up in a multicultural family and lived in several countries with diverse cultures before settling in the Seattle area with her husband and twin daughters. Her illustrations begin as pencil sketches on cold-press watercolor paper. She then inks the outlines, paints with watercolors, and scans the illustrations in order to edit them in Photoshop. She is the illustrator of The Arabic Quilt and other works that can be viewed at

Target Age: 7-11

Tilbury House

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

0.5" H x 12.1" L x 9.1" W 

40 pages