Our Tree Named Steve
Written by Alan Zweibel
Illustrated by David Catrow
Children's book review by P.J. Rooks
Our Tree Named Steve, simply put, is an introduction to death. It's so subtle, though, that it can be read to even a very small child to whom you'd rather not introduce the concept just yet. Not an overly mournful piece, though, the fact that author Alan Zweibel chose a tree for the deceased instead of, say, a hamster, was a true stroke of genius and sets the stage for a sincere and wonderful story.
Happy children and a puppy grace each page as the history of the family and their huge tree is set down. The children are away at Grandma's for the week when Steve is struck by lightning and has to be cut down and taken away. The family's sad dog, Kirby, is shown draped over the stump in the wee hours of the night.
Written as a letter so that the children will not be surprised when they return and find that their beloved tree is missing, the father bestows nobility upon the fallen tree and comfort upon the children.
"Are we sad?" reads the letter, "Sure we are. But even in his final moments, when he could have fallen on our house, Sari's swings, Kirby's house or Mom's garden, Steve performed his last trick and protected all of us to the very end, and friends like this are hard to find."
One of Steve's seedlings holds a tree-house not far away though, and the letter closes with "Steve will always be with us. In our hearts, in our thoughts... and in a different tree at the other end of our yard."
Many are the well-intentioned books that strive to provide those hard-to-find words that send parents fumbling, but all too often these attempts are, well, not so hot. These books have a tendency to be steeped in the author's personal religious perspective or some other unwanted agenda and illustrated with dreary watercolors that are, quite frankly, boooooor-ing. We usually get about three pages into one of these before my daughter gives it the old heave-ho and off it goes to the floor.
But not this one! With delightful illustrations by David Catrow and light-hearted, reflective text, Our Tree Named Steve is truly a brilliant and sensitive introduction to the idea that although things we love often play only a short role in our lives, they leave something behind for us to cherish forever.
Webmaster's note: Please know that there is an entire page on this site devoted to children's books about death.
Tess's Tree is another book about a dear plant that passes.
Read more of P.J.'s reviews.
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