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I Have an Olive Tree

by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Karen Barbour

Published by HarperCollins, 1999
32 pages
ISBN: 0-06-027573-1

Ages 5 - 9

Sophia's grandfather gives her an olive tree for her seventh birthday, even though she wanted a skateboard. Stranger yet, the olive tree isn't something she can see-it is back in Greece, on the land her family once owned. When her grandfather dies a year later, he leaves enough money for Sophia and her mother to travel to Greece to hang her grandmother's glass beads in the olive tree. For Sophia, the journey makes no sense-she feels no connection to a place she's never seen. Once on the small island where her mother was born, however, she begins to understand that the tree is more than a thing or a place, it is a part of who she is and where she came from-a connection to the past, represented by her grandparents who have died, and to the future, because she knows that some day she will return. "It had to do with Mama and me and all of us being part of the island. [Grandfather] wanted Mama to remember again, and he wanted me to know." Eve Bunting's skillful narrative is restrained from too much sentiment, making for a satisfying story. Karen Barbour's exquisite illustrations display color with both exuberance and restraint to capture the flavor of Greek culture and the emotional and spiritual landscape of Sophia's journey. CCBC Categories: Picture Books for Older Children (MS; October 25)  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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