Pin It
Monday, April 30th, 2012

Multicultural Book Review: I Have an Olive Tree

By
"I Have an Olive Tree" Review- incultureparent

By Eve Bunting; Illustrated by Karen Barbour
Ages:  4+

 

Sophia’s grandfather “gifts” her with an olive tree on her seventh birthday. But the tree is on a small island in Greece where Sophia’s mother was born.  A year later, her dying grandfather also entrusts her with her grandmother’s beads, urging her to hang them on her olive tree.  All of this leaves Sophia, who is growing up in California, utterly confused.

 

This is how the story begins in Eve Bunting’s “I have an olive tree.”  Eve Bunting moved to the U.S from Ireland and started her writing career with an Irish folktale.  Later, she went on to write an array of diverse stories across age ranges, and won innumerable awards for her work. I particularly love her children’s stories dealing with war—narrated in very simple words, they are always powerful and moving.

 

Sophia is on a plane to Greece with Mama and then on a ferry to the island. Throughout, she notices how Mama is silent and nostalgic, yet at ease with a sense of familiarity. We experience the place through Sophia’s observations of people and things—a sponge seller, a priest, a flock of sheep and a man playing bouzouki catch her attention. More importantly, we see how strange and emotional she begins to feel at “home” with Mama, but in a land very different from what she now calls home.

 

Finally, beside two harmless goats, they find the olive tree. Sophia hangs the beads just like her grandfather wanted.  But standing under the family tree and watching the beads sparkle in the sun, she realizes why really her grandfather had wanted her to do this.

 

The story evoked familiar emotions in us. While I easily related to the nostalgia of the adult, I am sure my seven-year-old found in Sophia the same mixed feelings that frequently grip her when we visit India every summer. During these trips, I’ve often caught my children struggling to react to my excitement at something that seemed ordinary to them. Naturally, we connected well with this story. But I can also see this book opening up wonderful talks about ancestors and heritage, providing an enriching read for children, parents and grandparents.

 

Karen Barbour’s colorful spreads take us on a journey to a Greek isle.  One cannot miss the distinctly Greek people or several cultural nuances evident on every page. Gold and blue, characteristic of an island destination, dominate the color palette. The details congeal to create  a mix of distance and longing, a feeling we often associate when we take ourselves and our children back to our roots.

© 2012 – 2013, Meera Sriram. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


Why African Toddlers Don't Have Tantrums

The secret of why African babies don't meltdown like Western ones.

Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?

Should spanking be part of your parenting toolkit to have well behaved kids?

Around the World in One Semester

Welcome to our newest blogger--a world traveling, homeschooling mom--to the InCultureParent family!

Almost African: My Childhood as a Serbo-Croatian in Sudan

The freedom of growing up as the only Serbo-Croatian in Sudan

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Meera Sriram has been reviewing and recommending diverse children’s literature for about ten years now. She loves to pass on a title or an author to a friend (or a stranger, for that matter). Picture books particularly appeal to the inner child in her. She moved to the U.S. at the turn of the millennium from India. After graduate studies and a brief stint as an electrical engineer, she decided to express herself in other creative ways, primarily through writing. She has co-authored four books for children, all published in India. Her writing interests include people and cultures, nature, and life’s everyday moments. She also runs an early literacy program for toddlers and preschoolers in her neighboring communities. She lives in Berkeley, CA, with her husband and two kids. Curling up to read a good book with her children is something she looks forward to every day. She constantly fantasizes about a world with no boundaries over hot chai, to help her stay warm in foggy Northern California. More at www.meerasriram.com.

Leave us a comment!

2 Comments
  1. CommentsInCultureParent | Ten Reasons Parents Should Read Multicultural Books to Kids   |  Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 1:35 am

    […] Books that take us back to our cultural roots are always valuable. These books open up discussions about family ancestry and heritage. They also […]

  2. CommentsInCultureParent | Favorite Multicultural Children’s Books of 2012 – Old and New   |  Thursday, 23 May 2013 at 5:46 am

    […] “I have an Olive Tree” […]









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
Hi Kim! I am so glad that this article was useful for you and made you feel validated as a parent. It's not often in this judgmental world of parenting we get that, right?! That's the main reason...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
I love reading your work. I can olny imagine what it would be like to have such beautiful customs and true community. I understand why it is so very very important to keep these traditions alive. Be...
From No Kids Allowed: How Kenyan Weddings are Changing
Your mother in-law seems somewhat reasonable. Many Chinese Mother In-laws are not. In their scenario, they would be number 1 to the child and you would be number two. Many want to have a bond closer...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
I think Konstantina is actually responding to what is probably more familiar/praised/or preferred socially as well. I was an English teacher in Poland with a distinct accent. I struggled to get Engl...
From Should I Worry about My Child’s Accent in Her Foreign Language?
Noor Kids' title "First Time Fasting" is another great rea...
From 6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan
This article was shared in a community I run to connect globetrotting parents and everyone LOVED it. You should join us! We all relate to your experience. Many of us, including me, are in the same b...
From Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get
Please help: I Love my wife and my son. I am also EXTREMELY involved as a dad. I had to move to china ( in a tiny tiny town) where I am the only foreigner so that my wife can take over the family bu...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
Thanks for writing this!! My baby is 7 months, and I love having her sleep in my room. I don't mention it too often to people who have had kids because they seem a little judgy on it. So tonight I...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
Honestly, it looks like the author married into a very backward and old fashioned family. Not stimulating children's curiosity, differences between boys and girls, and women slaving in the house, wh...
From French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family

More Multicultural Books, Etc.