The Hugging Tree: A Story About Resilience by Jill Neimark

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Finalist, Green Earth Book Awards


Selected for the New York Botanical Garden's LuEsther T. Mertz Library


Trees hold us fast in their embrace. The Hugging Tree is about a tree that, in spite of harsh circumstances, grows until it can hold and shelter others. It is about each one of us.

On a bleak and lonely rock
By a vast and mighty sea
Grew a lonely little tree
Where no tree should ever be.

Alone on a mighty cliff by the sea, a tiny tree struggles to grow and thrive. She is nurtured by the sea, sun and moon, and becomes home to a family of loons. But winter ice storms and bitter cold break her boughs and roots. Will she survive? Find out how the hugging tree grows until she can hold and shelter others.


Even though childhood can be a wondrous and carefree time, children must deal with difficulties as they grow. Those range from minor disappointments like losing a game, arguing with a friend or sibling, earning a poor significant blows such as the death of a parent or loved one, abuse, or neglect.


Through all her troubles, the Hugging Tree holds fast. Sustained by the natural world and the kindness and compassion of one little boy, the tree grows and grows until it can hold and shelter others under its immense green canopy. Every day, people of all ages come to rest and sit under the tree.


The resilience of the Hugging Tree calls to mind the potential in all of us: to thrive, despite times of struggle and difficulty. To nurture the little spark of hope and resolve. To dream and to grow, just where we are.


Psychologists use the term resilience to describe an individual's ability to adapt successfully to challenging events. Reading this book with your child can be a way to teach resilience, self-confidence, and self-control and help you discuss challenges your child may be facing at home or school. This book has been used as an inspiration and teaching tool by teachers, librarians, pastors, rabbis, and parents around the world. There are more than two dozen read-a-louds of the book available on You Tube. Children enjoy making their own drawings of hugging trees, with words like "love" and "perseverance" alongside the branches. They enjoy outdoor read-a-louds accompanied by hugging and being hugged by trees.


A "Note to Parents" by Elizabeth McCallum, PhD, provides information about resilience, and guidelines for building resilience in children. A free, downloadable teacher and parent guide with many activities is available on the publisher's website, as well as on the author's website.

"A tree precariously growing on a cliff-side serves as a metaphor for resilience under trying circumstances. "There's hardly any dirt for me./ No forest breeze, no birds, no bees./ But I will do the best I can/ to make this rock my home," says the tree, which befriends the rolling sea, birds, moon, and sun as it grows. Wong's delicate artwork touchingly conveys the tree s lonesome and perilous circumstances, and after a storm tears away the tree's roots, a boy brings it soil, enabling it to thrive and suggesting that resilience doesn't necessarily mean absolute independence...the tree's strength and transformation should have emotional impact for sensitive readers." -- Publisher's Weekly


"Inspired by the work of child psychologist Ann S. Masten, Jill Neimark developed The Hugging Tree to explore a child's ability to overcome difficult experiences. Like a small tree sapling battling the elements, children have an admirable resilience despite facing various difficulties. Readers are asked to join the tree sapling in braving the storm as the journey to become a strong beautiful tree is laid out on each page. With a little help and love from a young boy, the tree grows to be healthy and strong, providing a welcoming space for all who visit. The comforting tone of the poetic narrative written by Neimark is perfectly accompanied by the soft illustrations by Nicole Wong. The Hugging Tree is a gentle reminder that "Storms will come and storms will go." The American Psychological Association recommends this book for reader's ages 4 to 8, though this pairing is certain to offer hope and comfort to readers of all ages." --Samantha D'Acunto, The New York Botanical Garden's LuEsther T. Mertz Library


The Hugging Tree is an inspiring and captivating story...Jill Niemark's text is poetic and rhythmic with beautiful imagery. Nicole Wong's illustrations are exquisite and evoke the emotion and joy in the story.... It is all about encouraging children to talk about the challenges they face (i.e. bullying, disappointments, loss, etc.) and to give them tools to cope." -- Children's Books Heal


"Wow. This is a powerful story that I can see being used at many levels. It is the story of a tree, growing alone on a cliff. The tree is faced with many challenges including thunder storms, freezing winters and vast, crashing waves, but the kindness and compassion of one little boy and protected by the natural world, the tree grows and eventually becomes a shelter for others. The entire story could be seen as a metaphor for the hope and resilience we can show when faced with life s struggles. A great book for inferring and transform!" -- Reading Power Gear


"A gentle reminder that 'storms will come and storms will go.'" -- Plant Talk


Jill Neimark is an author of fiction and nonfiction, an award-winning science journalist and essayist, and former features editor at Psychology Today magazine. Her credits include the middle-grade novels The Secret Spiral and The Golden Rectangle, the adult novel Bloodsong, and the adult nonfiction title Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving. Her picture books include I Want Your Moo and Toodles & Teeny: A Story of Friendship. A former New Yorker, she lives in Georgia. Visit her at and follow her on Facebook and Twitter: @JillNeimark.

Nicole Wong is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. Her illustrations have been featured in seven children's books, including No Monkeys, No Chocolate and Ferry Tail. Nicole lives with her husband, daughter, and their dogs and cat in Massachusetts. Visit her at and follow her on Facebook: @painternik and Instagram: @painternik9.

Target Age: 4-8

Magination Press

Pub Date: September 07, 2015

0.4" H x 10.2" L x 8.1" W

32 pages