In the new picture book, The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston and illustrated by Claire Ewart, the main characters are having trouble sharing the fruit of an olive tree. Will they learn to resolve their differences?
Sameer had long enjoyed climbing in the old olive tree and gathering the fruit, although the tree technically was in the neighbors’ yard. The house next door has been empty for a long time, but now the neighbors are moving back in. Although he would like to get to know their daughter, who is named Muna, she does not greet him. In fact, when Sameer starts to gather the olives that have fallen in his yard, as he has done so many times before, Muna gets angry and tells him to stop because the tree belongs to her family.
Set in Lebanon against the backdrop of a recent war, the story helps guide children through the process of resolving their conflicts. After Sameer and Muna’s initial differences about who should own what drive them apart, the two children learn their shared experiences may be more important and extensive than they first thought.
Elsa Marston studied Middle Eastern history and has traveled extensively in the Middle East. This background allows her to realistically capture subtle details of setting that others with less experience might overlook, such as the fact Sameer’s mother processes the olives in jars with salt and lemon. At the same time, Claire Ewart’s vibrant watercolors are awash with bright sunlight, giving the feeling of actually being in the Middle East, which you can see in this trailer for the book:
Being able to find common ground and to forgive someone for past disagreements are important skills for children to learn. The Olive Tree is a gentle, delightful book that helps bring this message to light and might bring some understanding of how arguments can arise, as well as how to begin to mend relationships. It would also be useful for children who are learning about the Middle East.
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 2
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Wisdom Tales (November 1, 2014)
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