Pavel and the Tree Army

Hei­di Smith Hyde; Elisa Vavouri, illus.

  • Review
By – February 4, 2019

It is the depths of the Great Depres­sion and, like so many oth­ers of the time, Pavel, a Jew­ish immi­grant new to the U.S., can’t find work. A rab­bi tells him about a gov­ern­ment work relief pro­gram, and soon Pavel and a friend have joined the Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps (CCC). One of the CCC’s best known projects is the one for plant­i­ng trees. So many trees were plant­ed on bar­ren land across the coun­try that the CCC became known as America’s Tree Army.” Yet, even though Pavel is a com­mit­ted sol­dier,” some cowork­ers treat him with sus­pi­cion, even sneer­ing that he is not a real American.”

Oth­er crew mem­bers, though, glad­ly help Pavel improve his Eng­lish. And when they all gath­er togeth­er to cel­e­brate the Fourth of July, Pavel stands at atten­tion and proud­ly sings every word of The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner.” His pride in being an Amer­i­can is unmistakable.

Since most of the illus­tra­tions depict the coun­try­side, with blue sky and veg­e­ta­tion, and the men enjoy­ing hearty meals, there is no sense of the wide­spread suf­fer­ing of this time. An author’s note includes more infor­ma­tion about the Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps.

This book depicts a part of Amer­i­can his­to­ry with which chil­dren may not be famil­iar, and demon­strates that Jews played a sig­nif­i­cant part in this wor­thy endeavor.

Susan Kan­tor was a senior writer/​editor for Girl Scouts of the USA, a chil­dren’s book edi­tor, and a past judge for the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Awards in the illus­trat­ed children’s book cat­e­go­ry. She is a writer and a docent at the Rubin Muse­um in New York City, where she leads pub­lic and pri­vate tours.

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