Sameer, a young boy in Lebanon, awaits the return of his neighbors who fled during the war.
Sameer doesn't remember the family, but maybe there will be a boy his age. A boy he can play with—especially someone who can climb the olive tree that grows between the two homes. The conflict is unexplained, just touched upon briefly: “The family who had lived there had gone away during the troubles, because they were different from most of the people in the village.” Unfortunately, there is not a boy playmate but a girl named Muna who does not like Sameer very much. She sees him picking the olives that have fallen on his side of the wall and declares he is stealing. The tree, after all, belongs to her family. One fateful night, lightning strikes the tree, and it crashes to the ground, bringing part of the wall down as well (symbolically and literally). An apt peace offering if ever there was one, the broken olive branches bring Sameer and Muna together. Marston’s understated text aptly captures the children’s feelings and their uneasy relationship. Ewart’s illustrations are not as strong; in close-up, they are pleasing, but uneven perspective and confusing composition dog some of the longer shots, particularly those that depict the toppled tree.
Uneven art aside, a valid story that shows how perceived prejudice can be just as destructive as actual hatred. (Picture book. 5-8)