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The Glass Bottle Tree

The Glass Bottle Tree

by Evelyn Coleman, Gail G. Carter (Illustrator)

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Armin A. Brott
In a rickety old house, with a makeshift pickety fence, down a long dusty road, a little girl lived with her grandmother. And in the middle of their yard was a tree in which the family's spirits lived, captured in bottles placed on the tree's limbs. The grandmother and granddaughter lived peacefully together and understood each other so lovingly and completely that they didn't need words. During the day they tended their garden. Afternoons, they swam in the river, and after supper they sat before the fire and knitted winter blankets. One day, two social workers came to the house and threatened to take the granddaughter away. But the old woman releases the spirits from their bottles and saves her family. Gail Carter's paintings eloquently capture the joy and sadness in this tender story of strength, faith, and commitment.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Evelyn Coleman's The Glass Bottle Tree is a courageous picture book that I recommend for older elementary school students. The title refers to an African-American custom where colorful bottles are stuck on a tree's limbs to contain the spirits of the family's ancestors. The young heroine lives with her grandmother and loves those spirits, but respects her grandmother's decision to "put all the spirits inside bottles, so they would get a hold of themselves and behave." The girl and her grandmother have a deep and unwavering relationship with each other and their land. That relationship is often understood without words and this is misinterpreted when the "state's folk" visit. They decide that the grandmother's age and silence mean that the little girl "would be much better off living with a well-to-do family in a beautiful yuppety house... a real family." When they come to take the child, they believe the grandmother has gone even stranger, rocking and humming while the child grieves the coming loss. They can't hear, don't understand that the old woman is speaking to the spirits who are unleashed and fling "those state's folks here and there and everywhere until they lie like worn out rag dolls." Their mind's entirely reversed, the state's folks leave forever. Coleman's book can help children talk about everything from different ways of expressing love, prejudice, and the definition of a family based on love, not economic circumstances.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
K-Gr 3This ambitious text starts out simply and elegantly, introducing a girl, her grandmother, and what appears to be the central focus of the book, a tree that houses the old spirits of the family. To contain these exuberant spirits, colored glass bottles are placed over the limbs. The relationship between grandmother and granddaughter is then explored. The two spend their time in loving silence as the girl learns to garden, swim, and knit. But trouble appears in the form of two state workers who decide that the girl would be better off in a more traditional home. When they arrive to take her away, the grandmother wordlessly summons the ancestral spirits for help. And help they do, sending those interfering folks back on down the road, in silent agreement never to return. The soft watercolor illustrations add greatly to readers' appreciation of the characters and setting. They are sunny, warm, and highly sympathetic toward the grandmother, while making it clear that it's the state workers who have no color or inner vision in their lives. However, although the language is touched with a poetic sensibility, the themes are weighty, even disturbing. The idea of two people communicating without words builds to unnatural proportions, while the tree, which is the hook of the tale, diminishes in importance until the grand finale.Martha Topol, Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI

Product Details

Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.87(w) x 10.35(h) x 0.36(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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