Hello, friends! Our book today is The Together Tree, written by Aisha Saeed and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, a heartfelt story on bullying, understanding, and forgiveness.
When Rumi starts at his new school, he feels nervous and isolated; he misses his friends and former home of San Francisco, and is having trouble finding his place in this new class. This is worsened when two of the other students begin to bully him, and a third watches without intervening. Every recess, Rumi retreats to a sheltering willow tree to avoid interaction – and harassment – until the day that the bullying goes much too far. At last, classmate Han stands up for Rumi, and the newcomer begins to make friends. Yet when Rumi is given the opportunity to exclude his former bully, will he?
Compelling. Saeed’s narrative is measured and emotional, delving into each character’s motivations in just a few words, or one of Pham’s expressive illustrations. I like especially that the bullies are not portrayed as irredeemable villains, but as fellow children who are just as capable of empathy as they are of cruelty; the moment that one of Rumi’s bullies, Asher, realizes that throwing a rock at the other boy and causing physical damage has caused pain and shame for both of them, is subtle yet striking. Pham uses color and grayscale to enhance the already wonderful visual storytelling, the length is fine for all ages, and JJ greatly enjoyed the moral of the story. Overall, a lovely and touching book that reminds us of the power of empathy, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)