Andrew Svenson, who wrote The Happy Hollisters series under the pseudonym Jerry West, often drew inspiration for character names from Hollywood stars and even from his own family, but he rarely used the names of actual people. One exception is The Happy Hollisters and the Secret of the Lucky Coins, in which the Hollister children meet Harry Turner, the town forester, who teaches them about trees. He is based on—and named after—a noted tree expert from East Orange, New Jersey. In the book, Mr. Turner is a valuable ally to Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue when they get caught up in a search for a hidden treasure. Behind the scenes, the real Turner also played an important role, offering hours of interviews to Svenson to help him write the arboreal adventures in The Happy Hollisters and the Secret of the Lucky Coins.
In the United States, we celebrate trees and their benefits on Arbor Day, usually on the last Friday in April. There are many ways to celebrate, from planting a new tree, taking a nature walk to identify different varieties of trees, or even reading a book like The Happy Hollisters and the Secret of the Lucky Coins.
Telling a Tree’s Age
When the Hollisters first encounter Mr. Turner, he is assisting their Uncle Russ in moving a downed tree from the road after a tornado. The children are eager to help, and Turner has them count the rings on the fallen tree to find out how old it is. Once a tree is cut or falls down, its age can be determined by looking at the rings inside the tree, which are called annual rings. Annual rings are formed when a tree grows a new layer of wood underneath its bark, causing the trunk to widen. The space between the rings shows how much growth occurred, and counting the lines can be used to give an estimate of a tree’s age. For example, Pam counts 67 annual rings on the tornado-downed tree, which means that it was around 67 years old.
Bark and Sap
The Hollisters are surprised to learn that trees and humans aren’t all that different! While we have skin and blood, trees have bark and sap, which are equally important to health and survival. The bark serves as the tree’s exterior protection. The outer layer of bark keeps out moisture, protects the tree against extreme cold and heat, and shields against pesky insects that could damage the tree. Two inner parts of the bark, the phloem and sapwood, pass nutrients and water throughout the other parts of the tree. Finally, a layer of the bark called the heartwood acts as the support pillar for the entire tree. The heartwood is actually made out of dead wood, but it still has enough strength to support the rest of the tree.
Sap, the sticky substance that drips from trees, acts much the same as human “blood.” It carries water, hormones, and vital nutrients to other parts of the tree by traveling through the phloem and sapwood. All trees produce sap, but some types, like elms and maples, are known for dripping larger amounts of sap. Sap can be annoying for humans when it gets stuck to skin or clothes, but to trees, it’s healthy and delicious!
Trees Are Our Friends
One of the most important lessons that Harry Turner teaches the Hollister children is that trees are our friends, with many benefits for humans. In just one year, a single acre planted with trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people, and trees also absorb pollutants like ozone and ammonia by trapping the contaminants in their bark and leaves. Trees also provide a safe space for animals and birds to live.
All these things about trees are amazing, plus, as Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue learn, trees also provide unique ways to hide treasures that make sleuthing even more fun than usual! Pick up a copy of The Happy Hollisters and the Secret of the Lucky Coins to learn more!
By Libby Svenson Kennedy
Research notes, Andrew Svenson Archives of The Hollister Family Properties Trust