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Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Forgiveness Garden, written by Lauren Thompson with pictures by Christy Hale. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2012. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"One day, Sama walked along the stream, yearning for something to ease her aching, angry heart. She reached a calm pond and bent to drink. What she saw reflected there stopped her. She saw the ugly scar, but most of all, she saw her own dark, brooding scowl.
"Who have I become?" she cried."

"Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a different past..."
That, I think, is a thought to live by. This story takes as its focus a real garden planted following the civil war in Lebanon:

"The Garden of Forgiveness is in Beirut, Lebanon, and is the vision of Alexandra Asseily, humanitarian, activist, and psychotherapist, who has decided that 'every act of revenge is a time bomb thrown into the future'. It was created in the aftermath of a civil war that claimed 300, 000 lives (1985-2000).

In her story, Lauren Thompson envisions two villages, each harboring resentment of the other and their conflict is ever present. When Karune, a village boy from Gamte, hurls a rock that hits Sama, a village girl from Vayam, more violence is the result. Everyone is angry and bent on revenge. Karune has an inkling of concern over his action. However, the long and always evident hatred of the Vayams is uppermost in his mind. Sama wants more than the sad and aching heart that beats within her body.

On the day she sees her reflection in the pond, it gives her pause to think about her destiny. While looking across the pool at some Gamte children, she comes to the realization that they are the same as she is. At that very moment avengers from her village capture Karune and urge her to seek vengeance against him.

When she looks up into their angry, bitter faces, she realizes that retribution is no solution:

"Let us build a garden instead, " she said.
Now, all of the people grumbled. Someone shouted, "What kind of garden?"
Sama knew. "A forgiveness garden."

Out of the mouths of the children....

Is wondering how others feel in the same situation a step toward kindness to all? Is forgiveness one path to peace? There are no real answers., but it certainly sparks conversation, doesn't it? Building a community garden together must surely make a difference.

In this book we asked to remember Archbishop Desmond Tutu's statement: “There is no future without forgiveness.”

 Christy Hale’s beautiful collage images create a place in time for this thoughtful story and encourage readers to think about their actions and the ripple effect of what they do. The colors change as the tone of the tale changes, beginning with greys, browns and blacks and ending in cool blues, greens and violet. The bravery of two young people point the way toward healing in the beauty of this  serene space.


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