Hello, friends! Our book today is The Tree of Hope: The Miraculous Rescue of Puerto Rico’s Beloved Banyan, written by Anna Orenstein-Cardona and illustrated by Juan Manuel Moreno, a beautiful tale of community and overcoming adversity.
For over 100 years, the massive jagüey blanco (banyan tree) has stood guard over Puerto Rico’s San Juan Gate like a stately king of ancient forests, with twisting, trailing roots and a great crown of verdant green leaves. Locals and tourists alike meet and mingle beneath its shady and sheltering boughs, and it is as much a part of the island as the people who inhabit it. One day, the tree wakes to a gathering storm, and while watching the locals prepare for the hurricane’s arrival, the tree feels confident that it will weather this storm, as it has done so many times before. But Hurricane Maria is different and it leaves a wake of destruction in its path, including knocking over the jagüey blanco and sending its crown of leaves into the ocean. Drifting between this world and the next, the tree begins to accept its fate… but the people of Puerto Rico, in the midst of their own tragedy, refuse to let the great banyan of Old San Juan become another victim of the storm.
Moving and inspiring. Based on a true story, Orenstein-Cardona weaves a tale of strength and kindness in the face of extreme hardship. By telling the story from the tree’s point of view, the audience is allowed the empathize directly with the tree, yet this doesn’t detract from the heartwarming and impactful true elements of the story, namely the strength of community and cooperation during the hurricane recovery efforts. Manuel Moreno’s illustrations are rich and atmospheric, and reflect the diverse skintones of the people of Puerto Rico. The length is good for a storytime, and JJ enjoyed following the rise of this magnificent tree. Overall, a beautiful story about community coming together after disaster, and we recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)