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THE TALLEST TREE by Sandra Belton

THE TALLEST TREE

By Sandra Belton

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-052749-5
Publisher: Greenwillow/HarperCollins

Little Catfish and his buddies are too young to remember when their rundown urban neighborhood was full of thriving businesses and stellar entertainment, but Odell Davis, an “old as dirt” neighborhood fixture, keeps the memories alive. Like the one tall tree left on the street, Odell is a living connection to that past. Little Catfish befriends Odell after seeing a picture of him and Paul Robeson posing under the tree. A father figure to Little Catfish, Odell tells him stories about Robeson and the other great actors, musicians and poets who graced the stage of the former Regal Theater, now the site of the neighborhood’s community center. Little Catfish enlists his buddies to participate in the retrospective Odell creates to celebrate the history of the Regal. But Lamar, one of Little Catfish’s “hanging around” buddies, is jealous and angry of the attention Odell receives and vandalizes the theater. Shocked by this senseless act, the community rallies to restore the Regal to its former glory, which leads to a further revitalization of the neighborhood. This appealing and touching, if overly wishful, tale about what can be accomplished when a community works together conveys the value of remembering and embracing the past. (author’s note, biography websites, resources) (Fiction. 8-12)