Review: The Abba Tree
The Abba Tree by Devora Busheri, illustrated by Gal Shkedi
The Abba Tree opens with a passage from the Babylonian Talmud, in which Honi sees a man planting a carob tree and asks him how long it will take for the tree to bear fruit. When he replies "seventy years," Honi asks if he will live seventy more years to eat this fruit. The man says, “I found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted trees for me, I too am planting for my descendants.”
The story then begins with Hannah searching for a tree to climb. Her father, who is resting under a young carob tree, suggests she plant one, as it is soon to be Tu B’Shevat. But Hannah wants “to climb a tree now.” And so she goes searching for a tree to climb, trying unsuccessfully with three other types of trees. She returns to her father who then suggests she plant an Abba Tree, which she does by “planting” her father into the ground and climbing him. After this, the two rest under the tree and a version of the conversation as described in the above-mentioned Talmudic passage ensues between them. The story then comes full circle in the final illustration spread as the reader sees Abba and an adult Hannah, along with her son, resting under the carob tree which has now grown.
With a unique artistic style, illustrator Shkedi appropriately uses earth tone colors of mainly different shades of greens and browns, conveying a very natural atmosphere for a book about trees.
The Abba Tree was originally published in Hebrew and although the book doesn’t explicitly express that the story takes place in Israel, the father is referred to as “Abba,” the Hebrew word for father, and the trees that Hannah attempts to climb are carob, eucalyptus, pine and olive, giving the book a natural feel for an Israeli setting.
Author Busheri takes the concept of planting a tree on the holiday of Tu B’Shevat one step further by showing how people must plant trees for the next generation, lending this book to interesting classroom discussions about the environment and altruistic behavior.
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