Books, Reviews

Book Review: The Olive Tree

Today’s post is the first in a series of book reviews I aptly named (for myself) as ‘Better Late Than Never.’ This includes books that I read a (looooong) while ago and hence the adage. The first one that I feature today is titled ‘The Olive Tree‘ by Elsa Marston. The rest will follow over the next few weeks (not necessarily one after the other though)..

With all this talk of climate change in the forefront and people of all ages actively working towards the common goal of a (better) world for the future – and that is certainly so welcome amidst everything else that we hear on the news – I thought of all the books I had read about (related to) trees and left unreviewed.

While I remembered a good deal about these books, there were also some gaps that I addressed by reading them again so I could faithfully review them here.

So here it is, better late than never, the review of ‘The Olive Tree’ read first in 2015! And while the book is a few years old, and is set in a Lebanon of a few (couple of) decades ago, the message it imparts is relevant, even more so today.

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The Olive Tree

Book Info

Title: The Olive Tree
Author: Elsa Marston
Illustrator: Claire Ewart
Publisher: Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), Members’ Titles
Genre: Children’s Fiction/Multi-Cultural
Age Range: 5 – 8 years

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The house next door to Sameer’s had been empty for as long as he could remember. The family had gone away when the war began. But now they were back, and he was ready to have fun with his new playmate. Together they could climb the big olive tree that overlooked both their gardens, and eat the delicious olives it produced. The only problem was that Muna, the little girl next door, didn’t want to play and she didn’t want to share the olives. She said they belonged to her family alone—that is, until one fateful night when lightning struck the tree.

Poignantly told by award-winning author Elsa Marston and with beautiful paintings from award-winning illustrator Claire Ewart, The Olive Tree follows two children as they learn to share and work together by looking past their differences. It shows young readers that compassion and understanding lie at the heart of all friendships.

The original version of this story won a fiction contest sponsored by Highlights for Children in 1992, was published in the October 1993 issue of Highlights, and in 1994 received the Paul A. Witty Short Story Award from the International Reading Association. This is the first time it appears in picture book format, with permission from Highlights for Children.

My Thoughts

A book about friendship, helping your neighbors, about conflict turning to peace, about division turning to unity.

Sameer is looking forward to the fact that his neighbors are returning after many years, now that the ‘long war is over’; and hoping for a friend. But that is not what happens. Muna, the girl who returns next door chooses to ignore Sameer. And while one war has ended, a war of another kind begins over the olive tree that has been between the two homes for over a hundred years.

Sameer is told not to take the olives that were falling into his yard, since the tree belongs to Muna’s family. The story takes a turn when a storm blows in and paves a path for new beginnings.

Elsa Marston crafts a sweet story that talks about tough times as seen through the eyes of a child; and Claire Ewart’s watercolors lend the perfect balance to her words by giving a glimpse into beautiful Lebanon while using colors to add to the emotional content of the story.

In Summary

A great book to add to your child’s library; and definitely to classroom libraries for elementary school age children. This book offers a message of hope, goodwill, sharing and caring, friendship, and (literally) an olive tree of peace!

Rating: 4/5
Reading Level: 5 – 8 years (and above!)
Reread Level: 4/5 (to understand the messages and the symbolism, and to enjoy the illustrations)

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the original digital review copy of the book. These are my honest opinions.

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