Friday, June 2, 2017

An Alternative to The Giving Tree

Picture Book: The Amida Tree
Author & Illustrator: Bonnie Ferrante
Summary: Healthier emotional bonds are the "gift" of this variation of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The story strongly echoes the 1964 classic, but the apple tree loves a girl, 
and the girl, in less selfish ways, benefits from her relationship with the tree while repeatedly demonstrating her love for it. Initially, she feels loved by the tree in the way it tickles her fingers.  
As she observes nature around the tree, she becomes intrigued and wants to purchase a microscope. When she asks the tree for its apples, the tree answers, "Many eat my apples... Take a few and perhaps a better idea will come to you." 
She does get a better idea. She creates forest characters and apple dolls and sells them, earning enough money for a microscope and a chemistry set! She wants to show her gratitude so the tree suggests that she plant some fallen apples. As her fascination for the tree and her understanding of botany grow, she creates compost. 
Hoping to pay for university, she asks for tree branches to sell for firewood. "That will weaken me," the tree responds and encourages another "better idea." 
Upon seeing a beaver's face in a branch, the girl becomes a woodcarver.
The success of her art, leads to an exit for university so she gratefully says goodbye to the tree. 
When she returns, the planted apples have sprouted. She explains that she is writing a book about the importance of wild fruit trees and will be traveling and telling their story. 
Age and burrowing insects weaken the tree so that a storm splits its trunk and a portion falls. 
After many years, the girl returns, aided by a carved cane and surrounded by blooming apple trees. All declare that they have missed each other!
Grateful for a place to rest, the girl settles into the sweet scent of apple blossoms, content with a life well-lived.
Hanna’s Comments: Honestly, these illustrations don't do much for me, but the story is excellent. Here you have a book that celebrates creative, artistic problem solving, a relationship with nature that seems vocational, and the many other positive aspects of this story mentioned above. I’m a big fan of The Giving Tree, I even consider it my earliest inspiration for PBT. I first heard it at church camp, but I do remember feeling guilty about being human as I heard how the boy used and used and used the tree that loved him. The end wasn’t particularly positive either. I still think it’s a valuable book. You’ll find my PBT post on it [here]. A simple faith-based lesson could be to read Silverstein's book first and then this book. Glean from your audience (children or adults), the differences in these stories and consider the value of each. Find God (or Christ or the Holy Spirit) in both of the stories. See if your audience notices the similarity between the apple doll and the girl as an elderly woman. Tie this to being made in God's image and connect that idea to both stories. Be sure to check out the excellent questions that Ferrante provides at the end of the book. You won't want to ask them all, but do consider asking some of them to your audience. 
Original Publisher & Date: Single Drop, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet
Scripture Connections: Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6); Jesus said, I am the vine; you are the branches (John 15:5); Paul wrote he hoped that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love (Ephesians 3:17-18)
Idea(s) for Application: I’ve created an elementary Sunday school lesson that features this book and connects it to the scriptures above and the 2nd component of my church’s mission statement: All are welcome to worship, GROW, and serve. Interested in purchasing it for just $4? Leave a comment and I'll get back to you.