cover image The Olive Tree

The Olive Tree

Elsa Marston, illus. by Claire Ewart. Wisdom Tales (NBN, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-937786-29-8

A stone wall divides two houses owned by families with children; a gnarled olive tree grows on Muna’s land, and the olives drop on Sameer’s land. Although Muna’s family, gone “during the troubles, because they were different from most of the people in the village,” has returned home, they maintain a polite distance, disappointing Sameer’s hopes for a friend. The children engage only to disagree over who the olives belong to. After their fight, “the olives went on dropping in Sameer’s yard... but nobody ever gathered them.” Ewart’s (One Cold Night) watercolor illustrations deftly employ color to signal the story’s emotional developments. For example, warm hues of gold and green permeate the opening pages; in a center spread, a billowing blue storm washes over the small green village, with jagged lightning striking and killing the olive tree. In the final pages, a dusky purple backdrop and broken golden boughs convey a somber yet promising mood. Marston (The Compassionate Warrior: Abd el-Kader of Algeria) subtly transforms the story’s sadness into hope as the children surprise each other with acts of quiet generosity. Ages 5–up. (Nov.)