Big Trees, Big Hearts: 5 Picture Books about Redwoods & Sequoias

Kadie Seitz, Librarian, Youth Services,
Japanese family gather beside an automobile at Wawona Tree in Yosemite National Park
Family and friends from Pasadena gather beside an automobile at Wawona Tree in Yosemite National Park, in California, [ca 1933]. Shades of L.A. Collection: Japanese American Community

California Nouns: People, Places, and Things
Big Trees

One surefire way to feel small is to hang out next to California's two species of extra large trees: Redwoods and Giant Sequoias. Closely related, these two trees are a bit different; Redwoods grow taller, but Giant Sequoias grow wider.

While visiting Redwoods or Sequoia National Parks is fun for the whole family, you and your little one don’t have to travel too far from Southern California to check out these giants. Both types of trees can be found in local parks and arboretums, including Griffith Park (Redwoods) and Heaps Peak Arboretum (Giant Sequoias). Before you head out to the forest, check out these picture books to learn more about these amazing giants.

Book cover for Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth
Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth
Crute, Josh

Oliver is large. Very large. Larger than almost any other living thing on the planet—except for Sherman. Tired of being ignored in favor of his larger neighbor, Oliver the Giant Sequoia tries his hardest to grow even bigger, but comes up short. Will Oliver learn that being second-best is still pretty good? This cute tale will have readers looking at Sequoias in a different light. Recommended for ages 3+.

Fun fact: Sequoias take up more volume than any other tree. The largest Sequoia (General Sherman, Oliver’s neighbor) measures over 52,000 cubic feet!

Book cover for The Forest in the Trees
The Forest in the Trees
McLennan, Connie

In this book, readers get two stories in one: a lyrical, Redwood-focused rendition of “The House that Jack Built” and a book full of facts about the ecosystem that Redwood trees support in their branches. With each turn of the page, readers travel further up a Redwood tree, discovering the variety of plant and animal life that lives in the forest in the trees. The last pages include learning activities to extend the reading experience. Recommended for ages 3+.

Fun fact: Redwood trees are home to a large amount of biodiversity. You can learn more about the biodiversity of your neighborhood and help scientists collect data with our Exploring Biodiversity Neighborhood Science kit, available for checkout at many local branches.

Book cover for Redwoods
Chin, Jason

If you had to choose one book to read about Redwoods, this would be it. This lovely book packs interesting facts into each page, paired with stunning illustrations that whisk the reader off to the heart of a Redwood forest, no matter where they happen to be (even if they’re in the heart of the big city). Kids and adults alike will walk away with a new appreciation for these trees and how they shape the world around them after reading this book. Recommended for ages 4+.

Fun fact: Redwood trees can live for more than 2,000 years and grow over 350 feet tall!

Book cover for Luna and Me: The True Story of a Girl who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest
Luna and Me: The True Story of a Girl who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest
Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue

Can you imagine living in a tree for over two years? That’s just what one brave girl named Butterfly did in order to save a Redwood tree named Luna. Readers follow along with Butterfly’s journey - from realizing Luna was in danger, to deciding to do whatever it takes to protect it, to finally succeeding in her mission. Along the way, readers learn about Redwoods and why they’re important and get inspired to take action to protect the environment. The last few pages give more information on the true story that inspired the book. Recommended for ages 4+.

Fun fact: Redwood National and State Parks contain 45% of all protected old-growth Redwood forests remaining in California.

Book cover for The Sequoia Lives On
The Sequoia Lives On
Cooke, Joanna

How do such massive trees grow from tiny seeds? This book illustrates the life story of a Giant Sequoia, from a seed the size of an ant, to reaching out its roots and growing ever taller, until it at last crashes to the forest floor, shattering, but providing nutrients for the next generation. Full of interesting facts and brightly colored illustrations, this book demonstrates the magic of Giant Sequoias. Recommended for ages 5+.

Fun fact: Giant Sequoias are considered endangered species, with fewer than 80,000 trees remaining. They only grow natively in the state of California.