The JGC/United Publishing Philosophy: Just because we found the world a certain way doesn't mean we have to leave it that way. Our goal is to help readers see beyond what is to what can be by opening minds and hearts with the power of imaginative literature. — John Gile, Editor & Publisher

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The story of a story

Our two oldest children, Annie and Brian, were having trouble getting along with each other. It was nothing unusual, just ordinary sibling rivalry and "me first" battles, but their frequent quarreling destroyed the peace.

I love children and I believe all children are beautiful. But when Annie and Brian quarreled, it seemed as though they had lost some of their beauty — the beauty a father sees when his children are being kind to each other and caring for each other and sharing with each other.

I went for a walk while they were getting ready for bed one evening after a particularly difficult day. I wanted to find a way to encourage them to be more kind to each other and to help them understand that when they hurt each other they hurt me, too. Falling leaves and bare branches in the trees prompted me to make some notes in my journal for the story I told Annie and Brian when I returned home. You might say The First Forest jumped out of the trees at me that night. — John Gile

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Sometimes Annie and Brian got along well,
sometimes they didn't.

The First Forest Earth Day Essay Contest

"Essay question based on a central theme in The First Forest: "How and why do I show respect for the people and places in my life?"

The First Forest Essay Writing Contest Winner Alyssa Colbert, Thomas Dooley School, Schaumburg, Illinois, received a First Prize Award of $1,000 and a complimentary copy of The First Forest for every student at her school

Respect is a very important word in my family. I live with both of my parents, my older brother and sisters. Without respect in our house, our own little city wouldn't work. There are rules and regulations that our parents have put in place for all of us which help keep us safe and our house a nice place to live in. We follow the rules by helping keep the house together.

My room is one of my responsibilities, and if I don't keep my room in order, that may cause an imbalance in my house. My brother and sisters may see me not following the rules that our parents have made for us and try to do the same thing. If we all break the rules, then our house is a mess. Then there no respect for my parents, myself, and more importantly, there's no respect for my grandmother who passed away and made a way for us to have our house. I don't want to disrespect my parents, and I don't want to disrespect my grandmother whom I love and miss. By respecting and honoring the rules and regulations that my parents have set in place for me and my brother and sisters, this honors and respects my grandmother.

Since I believe my mother is like a little version of my grandmother, she's shown me how to respect the outside of our house as well. I help clean up in the spring and summer any garbage that was left around the house during the Winter. I help my mom plant beautiful flowers and water the grass. I don't really mind the heat in the summer, so I push really hard for us not to use the air conditioning a lot.

The biggest thing I shoot for is Recycling. As a member of the Environmental Club at school, this has helped me learn a lot about saving “Mother Earth.” And because of what I have learned, I let my family know that if we do our part to recycle cans, bottles, plastic, and newspapers, then we're respecting the land we live on. Our family is only one of many, but if we can do our part, the respect I've been taught by my parents and the Environmental Club won't be just for my house, but also for those who helped me before and those who will continue to help after me. Love and respect for “Mother Earth” can bring love and respect to your own house. — By Alyssa Colbert, reprinted here with permission.

Free Teaching Aids:
Cross Curricular Unit
Multicultural Awareness
The First Forest — Teaching Peace
Good News For Teachers And Principals
A Prime Example Of Pourquoi Literature — Writing Prompt

" of the best messages that our generation can give..."

"We believe that the book is one of the best messages that our generation can give to the new seeds that will make trees like us in the long run, hoping that they will make better trees than us." — Istanbul, Turkey, literary agency, Onk Agency, Ltd.

"If the litmus test for a piece of literature is whether it strikes the intended audience as the author hopes, then The First Forest is a stand-alone success." — D. Showers, Review

"With its lovely art and its philosophy of sharing, The First Forest offers a number of concepts to be shared by children, parents, and teachers . . . valuations, cultural groups, change in status, teamwork, consideration for others, responsibility, neighborliness, self-confidence, self-control." — Wings

"The First Forest is a little allegorical tale with a message as big as the world. Dealing with the gigantic issues of greed and selfishness, it delivers a potent punch. But — couched in simply phrased rhyming verse — it also tugs at your heart. It so obviously is a labor of love." — L. Carlson, Review

Michigan and New York reviews place The First Forest alongside Charlotte's Web, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Giving Tree, and other classics. "The book relays the value of both concern for each other and for the environment." — Publishers Weekly

Aaron B., Third Grade

• Click cover for larger image.

The First Forest by John Gile
Hard Cover • Full Color

• Reading Coordinators' National Read, America! Classic Selection
• Scholastic Canada Book Club Selection
• Chicago Tribune Best-Seller List four consecutive holiday seasons

Read, America! Classic Selection

" . . . a book at a level of storytelling with appeal "for generations of readers." — Read, America!

"...much more than a children's book."

"The First Forest is a delightful children's book, but much more than an ordinary children's book. It's also an art book because of Tom Heflin's drawings; a nature book because of the topic; an inspirational book because of the story — and a beautiful gift book for children and adults." — Book Retailer

Click here for the author's background information
Click here to visit the author's website —

The Night The Trees Talked

The First Forest is another in a long line of gifts from the trees. The trees give us food and clothing and shelter. They provide cool shade in summer and protection from harsh winds in winter. The trees give us oxygen to sustain our lives, medicines to heal our bodies, and books to enrich our minds. They include the oldest and largest living things on earth, and their beauty provides endless inspiration for poets and painters alike. When I was looking for a way to teach my young, quarrelling children to be more kind to each other, the trees gave me The First Forest.

The Lesson The Trees Taught

It was as though the trees said to me, "We have an idea. We will become actors and actresses in a story that will let your children discover it's better to be kind to each other than to be pushing and shoving and hurting each other." The First Forest is fable. The heroes in the story are the Evergreens. The actors and actresses are the trees you see every day. May you enjoy their little play. May The First Forest renew your appreciation and respect for all the trees. And may you ever be an Evergreen.

Foreword, sixth edition of The First Forest, 2002 by John Gile

Now available in Spanish!

"Lyrically written, this unique fable — exquisitely illustrated — tells what happens when greed spoils the beauty and peace of the very first, perfect forest. This best selling resource encourages us all to share, to respect others, and much more." — Scholastic of Canada

Accepted and recommended for direct and supplementary classroom use by teachers in language arts, graphic arts, conflict resolution, peace and environmental issue discussions, multicultural awareness, well founded self-esteem, school musical productions, and as a prime example of pourquoi literature.

Four generations of readers —
an elementary school teacher,
a classroom of second graders,
a high school student,
and an elderly woman
provide personal perspectives on The First Forest:

An elementary school teacher's perspective: a tool for teaching

"I opened an envelope from a second grade teacher who said she saw The First Forest as primarily a story of relationships. She told me that she had decided to use the story to introduce a class discussion about how we get along with each other — and sometimes fail to get along. She said she shared the story with her students, then asked them to retell the story in their own words as she wrote their words. She also invited the students to share their thoughts and feelings about the story and recorded their comments.

"Her creative approach takes full advantage of the story. The First Forest is a fable. It does not tell readers what to think, but invites readers to think. Her note to me included her students' version of the story and a compilation of the thoughts and feelings they shared. Her students' observations, some of which follow, show how well the teacher succeeded in getting them to think in depth about the story. The second graders' observations also provide a powerful illustration and reminder of the sensitivity, understanding, and wisdom of the children." — JG

Listen to the wisdom of the children

Here is what the children reported discovering in The First Forest:
• "Never be selfish and then you'll have a beautiful world." — K.S.
• "Don't be selfish. Learn to use your knowledge wisely. There is no need to fight. You can work it out. Share your brotherhood with friends." — S.S.
• "Respect the feelings of others." — A.Z.
• "Fighting will never solve anything." — D.S.
• "Never be selfish and keep joy within you." — S.R.
• "When you need to be punished for something you did wrong, don't ever think it's because they don't love you. It's because they love you so much and want you to learn." — E.P.
• "Even if other people don't care, you should care." — K.K.
•"Always help the people who get hurt." — P.H.
• "Don't be a know-it-all or a big shot because this hurts others' feelings. Instead try sometimes to help others." — C.E.
• "Learn to talk out your problems. Keep the peace." — K.J.
•"If you get down, just keep hope and you'll probably be okay." — L.H.
• "Take the opportunity to live and learn from what you do." — L.G.l
• "You should always keep pretty thoughts and not ugly thoughts in your mind." — S.A.
• "Just because you're big doesn't mean you are the best." — N.L.
• "Don't be jealous because you didn't get something someone else did. There's always something special about yourself." — D.L.
• "Always use a little imagination in your life and wonder!" — K.C.

A high school student's perspective: "I hope that my children will read it to their children."

Special thanks to Kathie Ayres, Scholarship Administrator for the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, for sharing the following essay by a scholarship applicant. Applicants are asked to "Tell about a book that affected your life." This is a student's response.

"The First Forest went with me everywhere . . ."

A book that really affected my life is The First Forest by John Gile. The first time I heard the story was when I was in the second grade and the book was read by Mr. Gile himself during a "Read! Read! Read!" program at school. My mother bought a copy as a gift for my sister and me and we had it signed by the author. I thought it was so cool to have this book. I wanted it read to me every night.

The First Forest went with me everywhere. I played school teacher a lot and would always read it to my pretend students because I liked the way it rhymed and because it had such awesome pictures. The most important thing about the book, though, isn't the pictures. It's the story's lesson. It taught me that nothing good ever comes from selfishness. It taught me that when people have generous attitudes and are peaceful, their lives are rewarded and praised and they are trusted throughout life . . .

"They are always there for me,
no matter what . . ."

The author notes at the end of the book that if at least one person has a more generous attitude toward others because he or she reads The First Forest, he will have succeeded. I know he succeeded because here I am at 18 with the book displayed on a shelf in my room. I think of myself as a tree in the forest and my parents as the tree maker in the story. I know I don't always do the right things, but they are always there for me, no matter what, and they always care for me, just like the tree maker.

The First Forest has affected my life and I will keep it forever. I hope that my children in the future will read it to their children, for the book teaches values everyone needs to learn.

The senior perspective: a memorial

"A woman came up to me at a book store with six copies of The First Forest in her hands and asked me to sign them for her. It was the holiday season and I asked if she wanted me to inscribe a holiday greeting in the books for each person.

"She told me the books were not holiday gifts, that The First Forest had been read at the nursing home where she works and a woman being cared for there, an elderly woman who was not expected to live until the holidays, had decided this was the message she wanted to leave behind with certain friends who had been very important in her life.

"I signed the books in somber silence, grateful for the honor and privilege of expressing the love in her heart for her friends." — JG

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Copyright 2009 by JGC/United Publishing, 815.968.6601. All rights reserved. Revised: January 21, 2010