A little coconut falls from a tree and an island dweller picks it up in this illustrated children’s book with religious themes.
During a rainstorm on a tropical island, a ray of sunlight touches a palm tree. A little coconut falls, landing in the water below. Helpful animals protect the coconut until Christian, who plays a drum and has a mane of wild blond hair, can discover it. Christian brings the coconut home to be part of his family, naming it Mateo, meaning “Gift of God.” Heston’s colorful illustrations do much to help tell the story; they’re particularly effective in showing the storm’s power. In her debut children’s book, Anderson captures a sense of drama: the gathering storm, the radiant light, the island’s animals joining in the joy of Christian’s drumming, the coconut’s relief on being taken home. However, the writing is clumsy and the setup, puzzling. This is a tropical island, and Christian’s drum has a “tribal” sound, yet with his “golden” hair (clearly represented in the illustrations) and “swim trunks,” he’s as Caucasian as can be. This whiff of cultural appropriation may not be appreciated by all parents. As hard as Anderson tries to pull the heartstrings—“The little coconut tenderly started to cry tears of joy. Making the tiniest little whimpering sounds that echoed from within its shell”—a coconut just doesn’t garner much sympathy. Christian’s drum is made from a large coconut, so it’s not as if he has some blanket coconut-protection policy. The story is thin, partly because Anderson continually asserts specialness but doesn’t show how, for example, the coconut is “ ‘Magical’ and ‘Beautiful’ ” or why Christian’s drum is “very unique.” The book is also distractingly full of errors: comma splices, sentence fragments, solecisms, incorrect punctuation, random capitalization, incorrect possessives—not a great example for young readers. An excerpt, sans illustrations, from the next book in the series is appended.
Some atmospheric drama but otherwise an unengaging story.