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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dear Baobab, written by Cheryl Foggo and illustrated by Qin Leng. Second Story Press, 2011. $15.95 ages 5 and up

"Maiko's favorite baobab was more than 2,000 years old. "When this old baobab tree was a baby," his mother used to joke with him, "that tall mountain over there was just a pebble.""

Maiko is seven and he lives with his aunt and uncle in Canada. His departure from Tanzania came due to the death of his parents and, as would be expected in one so young, Maiko is experiencing a great deal of sadness. He is also homesick for the baobab tree in his village. It was a place of shade, comfort and safety for Maiko and his childhood friends.

He comes to live in the red brick house, and grows to love a small spruce tree that grows too close to the foundation. That tree and Maiko have much in common. They are the same age. They both had been planted in the wrong place. But, Maiko listens to the sound of the tree and imagines its story, and he is comforted.

When he hears that the tree may cause structural problems, he is concerned. When he sees an axe and a saw, he hides them away to protect his new friend. His aunt and uncle seem to forget about cutting the tree down, until the day that they announce they will cut it down for their Christmas tree. Maiko cannot stand the thought!

He runs off to the silence of the nearby forest where he can think more clearly, and comes to a realization that all his hopes for the little spruce tree cannot possibly happen. Uncle Peter finds him there. Finally, Maiko is able to voice his sadness about not belonging, just as the little tree does not belong. Uncle Peter assures him that they will find a solution.
As promised, that is exactly what they do. Maiko and the tree learn that 'we can't always grow where we're planted. But we still can grow somewhere else.'


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