cover image I Have an Olive Tree

I Have an Olive Tree

Eve Bunting. HarperCollins, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027573-0

In this visually arresting picture book, Sophia ""receives"" an olive tree from her grandfather on her seventh birthday, one that still grows on his native Greek isle. Months later, her dying grandfather requests that Sophia and her mother travel from California to Greece to the olive tree to hang the beads that had belonged to Sophia's grandmother, as a remembrance. During the course of the trip, Sophia learns a great deal about her family's homeland. Bunting (Smoky Night) spins a quietly nostalgic tale that transports readers to the exotic setting with images of whitewashed houses ""sleeping in the sun"" and a sponge seller's wares ""stacked around him like great lumps of honeycomb."" In a visual homage to Greek culture, Barbour (Street Music) deftly adapts her folk-art style to incorporate elements of local art and architecture in everything from the color scheme--cobalt blue against white, lemon yellow and olive purple--to the characters' profiles, as stylized as those stamped on Greek coins. The townspeople wear traditional peasant dress; the legs of a table resemble Corinthian columns; and in a nod to Greek mythology, a sofa pillow is decorated with a winged horse. Barbour gives the tale a dramatic pause with a vertical spread showing the story's central image. The olive tree stands against a Van Gogh-esque landscape of flowing lines and swirling dabs of paint--and takes on a life of its own. Ages 4-8. (May)