cover image Pavel and the Tree Army

Pavel and the Tree Army

Heidi Smith Hyde, illus. by Elisa Vavouri. Kar-Ben, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5124-4446-9

In a setting featuring the Civilian Conservation Corps, Hyde (Shanghai Sukkah) tells a foundational American story of a struggling immigrant who encounters prejudice but finds his way. Pavel is beset with worry after leaving the bread lines of Depression-era New York City to plant trees and build dams in Idaho as part of the CCC. Everything is unfamiliar, but his friend Anatoly, also a Russian immigrant, offers comfort: “Don’t worry, Pavel. We will learn.” When another corps member insists that “real Americans” know the new national anthem, that can-do mantra stands Pavel and Anatoly in good stead. The two, and the tree army’s other new immigrants, learn the lyrics just in time to sing along at the Fourth of July picnic, where Pavel’s thoughtful sergeant counters bias with kindly wisdom: “It will take time for the saplings you planted to take root, but they are now part of this land. And so are you.” Vavouri (A Hanukkah with Mazel) uses a whimsical, folkloric style that conveys Pavel’s warm, wide-eyed worldview in richly toned illustrations. An author’s note offers extra context, amplifying the book’s celebration of the essential ways in which immigrants have contributed to the U.S. Ages 5–9. (Feb.)