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by Bob Feiner illustrated by Gina Hagen

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 2017

Two close twin brothers unexpectedly share their birthday with a lively tree in this debut picture book.

“Jake has Down syndrome. Austin does not.” In Feiner’s subtle story (based on his own sons), 8-year-old Jake’s condition is part of who he is, just as his twin brother’s penchant for talking “a lot” defines Austin. It’s the brothers’ birthday, and their presents reflect their individual interests: Austin’s gift is a toy airplane; Jake’s is a ball. When the twins go to a grassy field to play with their new toys, Austin’s plane gets stuck in a tree and he and Jake try throwing the ball to dislodge it. The ball catches in the branches, too, and when nearby children come to the twins’ aid, the result is a treed lacrosse stick and player. The characters (who are all white) can’t see what readers spot thanks to debut illustrator Hagen’s full-page, sunny, and tender watercolor images: a smiling, anthropomorphic tree who thinks it’s all a game to celebrate her own birthday. (The tree’s childlike enjoyment of the proceedings remains disarmingly relatable.) When Dad arrives, the tree happily relinquishes her haul, and the brothers leave side by side, ready for more escapades. This adventure is mild indeed, but its heart is movingly clear. Weaving in Austin’s and Dad’s positive acknowledgments of Jake’s suggestions to help, Feiner provides a gentle, between-the-lines theme of love and acceptance that resonates throughout.

A tale with an appealing message of inclusion, inspired by the author’s own experiences as a father.