Though it stood on the corner, Big Tree was the heart of the block. Children played and adults read beneath its branches; some climbed to sit on the limbs and talk; others walked their dogs past the tree to see what was going on.

Big Tree offered “shelter, shade, hiding place. Just right for sharing secrets, learning and dreaming,” writes Evanston author Laurie Lawlor in “Big Tree Down.”

One day a storm blew the tree down, leaving the homes on the block without electricity – but with plenty of community spirit. While the emergency workers cleared the debris and repaired the damage, families opened their now-silent freezers and refrigerators to make a meal for everyone – workers and neighbors alike. “Don’t want to waste good ice cream. Have some before it melts …
We shared flashlights and plates candles and songs, grills and lemonade.”

Even in its demise, Big Tree left a legacy: firewood for winter, wood chips for mulch, a “troll house” carved by a neighbor and rounds sliced from the trunk that were “just right for sharing secrets, learning and dreaming.”

In fewer than 60 sentences – not counting the onomatopoeic machine noises – Ms. Lawlor and illustrator David Gordon tell the story of a neighborhood, their beloved Big Tree and the new kid on the block, “Little Tree.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...