The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston

Olive Tree9781937786298_p0_v1_s260x420The Olive Tree

Elsa Marston, Author

Claire Ewart, Illustrator

Wisdom Tales, Fiction, Nov. 1, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Olive Tree, Neighbors, Lebanon, Middle East, Sharing, Friendship, Peace, Multicultural

Opening: For many years the house next to Sameer’s had stood empty. “What a pity!” his mother often said. The family who lived there had gone away during the troubles, because they were different from most of the people in the village. But now, the long war was over, and they were coming back.

Synopsis:  Sameer leans on an old stone wall that divides the property between two families. Above him an ancient olive tree grows on the other side of the wall, but the best olives fall on his family’s property. He eagerly watches the family move back into their home and hopes that they have a boy with whom he  can play. But Muna doesn’t want to play with Sameer, or share her family’s olives. One night during a storm, lightning strikes the olive tree and it crashes to the ground. Even the stone wall is broken. Will the two children find a way to resolve their differences?

What I like about this book:

  • Elsa Marston’s The Olive Tree is a richly textured and realistic story about two Lebanese children who struggle to get along after a war, learn to share, and find friendship through adversity.
  • The narrative is simple and lyrical. There is tension between Sameer and Muna, who are from two different families with different backgrounds. When their beloved olive tree is struck by lightning, they work silently together to clear the broken branches from their yards. They move beyond their anger, reconcile and heal.
  • The symbolism is appropriate with the broken stone wall, the toppled tree, and the olive branch (a peace-offering.)
  • This book is a reminder that our actions toward peace and reconciliation are powerful and unifying. They do make an important difference in the lives of those around us.
  • Children will gain a glimpse into a contemporary Lebanon and its culture. Marston was in Lebanon at the outbreak of the war and after it was over.  She was moved to write this hopeful middle eastern story.
  • This healing multicultural book belongs in school libraries as it will encourage many interesting discussions among students.
  • Claire Ewart’s beautiful illustrations are warm and colorful watercolors that draw the reader into the story from the first page. Her artwork is expressive and supports the emotion and tension in the story.

Resources: Visit Elsa Marston’s website to learn more about The Olive Tree.  She has included some background information about Lebanon, the culture, the civil war and discussion questions for the classroom.  I especially like her role-playing suggestions.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

35 thoughts on “The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston

  1. Friendship through adversity … I like that. But then, you knew I would need this one for my shelf, didn’t you? You’ve got such a keen radar for books that teach and heal! Happy International Day of Happiness from my heart to yours.

    • Yes, I thought you might like this beautiful story about resolving difference, friendship, and healing. This book lends itself towards a lot of discussion. Make sure you check out the author’s website for use with children.

  2. This reminds me of a vintage children’s book I have somewhere, The Open Gate. It’ll be interesting to read the Olive Tree to see where the similarities lie. Thanks!

  3. The author’s website is great. And of course the olive tree is a great symbolic choice for this type of story. Great find.

    • I’m glad you checked out the Marston’s website. Yes, I loved the symbolism too. The artist added even more that I didn’t mention. As the kids are arguing, the farm animals (on both sides) are acting out.

  4. Oh, this looks very good. Conflict resolution and peace are a huge deal for kids. Role playing is amazing. I remember how I initially thought it was silly — but after using it for various training programs I’ve been in — I’m impressed with how powerful and effective it can be.

    This book looks wonderful! Thank you for sharing. I always appreciate your book selections!

    • Yes, conflict resolution is so important for peace. With the world events as they are, we need to share books like this with children. Thanks for your comments about role playing. Good to know it is a powerful tool. And, thank you for your kind comments. I enjoy your selections too.

  5. How very exciting to see a review of a book written by a long time friend of mine! Elsa is in my town and I met her when I attended my first local SCBWI event back in the early 1990s. 🙂 I have several of her books but not this one yet so will have to remedy that.

    Hope your weekend is lovely, Pat!

    • It all begins with teaching character, respect, reconciling differences to children at a young age. I am so excited that there are books like “The Olive Tree” for teachers to use in the classroom.

  6. I am always on the lookout for takes about the middle east, after living in Egypt so long. My hubby and daughter are in Palestine on a medical mission now. Thanks for a wonderful review.

  7. One can only imagine how peace and reconciliation can happen in such war-torn countries. I love the described imagery in this and the idea of children being able to move beyond their anger. Bravo, all those involved. And Bravo Patricia for this lovely review.

    • Thank you Niamh! Yes, there was so much imagery in the book, and things I didn’t mention. This is truly the perfect picture book for children to learn about peace and reconciliation. And, so beautifully illustrated.

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