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I Have an Olive Tree

I Have an Olive Tree

5.0 1
by Eve Bunting, Karen Barbour (Illustrator)

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The day I was seven, my grandfather gave me and olive tree...At first, Sophia thinks the tree is an odd gift, but when Grandfather dies and her mother travel to Greece to see the tree, she discovers that what he discovers that what he has given her is far greater than she'd ever imagined.

A testimony to the wondrous ties of family and heritage, this


The day I was seven, my grandfather gave me and olive tree...At first, Sophia thinks the tree is an odd gift, but when Grandfather dies and her mother travel to Greece to see the tree, she discovers that what he discovers that what he has given her is far greater than she'd ever imagined.

A testimony to the wondrous ties of family and heritage, this glorious picture book brings together the beautiful writing of acclaimed author Eve Bunting and the exuberant paintings of artist Karen Barbour.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this visually arresting picture book, Sophia "receives" an olive tree from her grandfather on her seventh birthday, one that still grows on his native Greek isle. Months later, her dying grandfather requests that Sophia and her mother travel from California to Greece to the olive tree to hang the beads that had belonged to Sophia's grandmother, as a remembrance. During the course of the trip, Sophia learns a great deal about her family's homeland. Bunting (Smoky Night) spins a quietly nostalgic tale that transports readers to the exotic setting with images of whitewashed houses "sleeping in the sun" and a sponge seller's wares "stacked around him like great lumps of honeycomb." In a visual homage to Greek culture, Barbour (Street Music) deftly adapts her folk-art style to incorporate elements of local art and architecture in everything from the color scheme--cobalt blue against white, lemon yellow and olive purple--to the characters' profiles, as stylized as those stamped on Greek coins. The townspeople wear traditional peasant dress; the legs of a table resemble Corinthian columns; and in a nod to Greek mythology, a sofa pillow is decorated with a winged horse. Barbour gives the tale a dramatic pause with a vertical spread showing the story's central image. The olive tree stands against a Van Gogh-esque landscape of flowing lines and swirling dabs of paint--and takes on a life of its own. Ages 4-8. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Betsy Barnett
Sophia is disappointed on her seventh birthday when she doesn't get the skateboard she had wanted, but instead is given an olive tree by her Greek grandfather. The tree isn't even where she can see it, the tree is in Greece! When grandfather is on his deathbed a year later, he gives Sophia his beloved wife's beads and requests she hang them on the branches of her olive tree. Sophia is saddened by her grandfather's death, but can't understand why it is so important to her grandfather that she should take the beads to Greece. However, Sophia and her mother, who left the Greek island when she was a small girl, travel to their homeland. Through their travels and ultimate goal of hanging the beads on the now old and gnarled tree the mother and daughter come to love and appreciate their cultural heritage and family history. Bunting, who is prolific in her writings on family issues and multiculturalism, has created a wonderful story about family heritage. The illustrations are bold and colorful and well represent the extraordinary Greek culture.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-For her seventh birthday, Sophia's grandfather gives her an unusual gift-an olive tree, a symbol of this Greek-American family's heritage and ancestral home. Although the girl would have preferred a skateboard at the time, the gift takes on more import when her grandfather dies a year later. Sophia and her mother then make a pilgrimage to Greece to hang her grandmother's beads on the family tree in accordance with her grandfather's last wishes. Placing the beads in the barren, aging olive tree behind the family's former home enables Sophia to feel connected to her roots and she vows to return someday. The folk-art illustrations' color, style, and choice of subjects lend flavor to a story that celebrates ethnicity. At times, though, the palette seems more vivid than the tale itself, which is a contemplative memory piece. Quiet and touching, it may encourage youngsters to explore their own family origins.-Rosalyn Pierini, San Luis Obispo City-County Library, CA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Horn Book Magazine
The olive tree has special significance in Greek culture, although Sophia, who lives in California, is not aware of this when she is given one by her grandfather on her seventh birthday. "Sophia really wanted a skateboard," her brother Georgios reminds Grandfather, not a tree growing on the island where their mother had lived when she was a little girl. But a year later, just before he dies, Grandfather asks Sophia to make a pilgrimage with her mother to place Grandmother's string of beads on the tree. Sophia initially thinks this is an odd request. As she and her mother travel from Athens by ferry to her family's ancestral home, Sophia takes in the unfamiliar sights and sounds, puzzled and a little frightened by her mother's emotional reactions. But when they finally reach the tree, depicted in the book in Van Gogh-like colors and brush strokes (and placed horizontally on the page so that the book needs to be turned sideways for viewing), Sophia understands the symbolism of the gift and of the moment. Both text and art are authentic portrayals of the culture. The illustrations have the flavor of Greek folk art in the multi-hued palette and curving lines and are also accurate in the minor details, such as the caged canary in Sophia's home, a popular pet in Greek households. And while the story deals with the icons of a specific culture, its theme-the ties between family and place-is universal.
Kirkus Reviews
Both language and image are gorgeous in this affecting story of generations from Bunting (Some Frog!, 1998, etc.) and Barbour. When Sophia is seven, her grandfather gives her the olive tree that lives on the land their family once owned on a tiny island in faraway Greece. The next year, just before he dies, he gives Sophia the honey-colored beads that were her grandmother's, and asks her to hang them in her olive tree. Sophia and her mother make the journey from California to Greece, and then to the island, and Sophia describes what she sees and hears, e.g., her mother, reading aloud the names of the Greek shops "as if she liked the sound of them in her mouth"; sheep that bleat just like American sheep; the sound of the bouzouki playing. Bunting makes the strangeness of the journey and Sophia's growing understanding of her family history palpable, and Sophia's feelings when she places the beads in the ancient tree are complex but clear in a way that children will understand. The colors and shapes owe something to Chagall, and the sun-drenched blues and yellows, purples and violets recall Mediterranean folk pottery in the intensity of the color and the abstract, gestural line. The double-page opening of Sophia and her mother before the olive tree vibrates with emotion—a passionate marriage of word and text. (Picture book. 4-10)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Joanna Cotler Bks.
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 8.75(h) x 0.32(d)
AD510L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Eve Bunting was born in Ireland and came to California with her husband and three children. She is one of the most acclaimed and versatile children's book authors, with more than two hundred novels and picture books to her credit. Among her honors are many state awards, the Kerlan Award, the Golden Kite Award, the Regina Medal, the Mystery Writers of America and the Western Writers of America awards, and a PEN International Special Achievement award for her contribution to children's literature. In 2002, Ms. Bunting was chosen to be Irish-American Woman of the Year by the Irish-American Heritage Committee of New York.

Karen Barbour has illustrated many books for children, including You Were Loved Before You Were Born; Fire! Fire! Hurry! Hurry!; I Have an Olive Tree; and Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems, which was a Parents' Choice Gold Award winner. She wrote and illustrated Little Nino's Pizzeria, a Reading Rainbow selection. Her paintings have been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Rome. She lives in Point Reyes Station, California.

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I Have an Olive Tree 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My daugher and I decided to read this book to her 3rd Grade class. Needless to say everyone was inspired and captivated by this story. The illustrations are ablaze with colour and warmth. Highly recommend this book.