The Abba Tree

Devo­ra Bush­eri, Gal Shke­di (illus.)

  • Review
By – January 19, 2021

Devo­ra Busheri’s The Abba Tree is a sweet father-daugh­ter vignette, with joy­ful illus­tra­tions that talks about a hol­i­day with­out defin­ing it, per­haps pur­pose­ly geared towards the ini­ti­at­ed Jew­ish read­er. The sto­ry begins with the mov­ing Tal­mu­dic quote about Honi and the trees he plant­ed for future gen­er­a­tions. It then jumps to mod­ern pro­tag­o­nist Han­nah’s whin­ing about want­i­ng a tree to climb. Her father says plant one because Tu B’shvat is com­ing, but Han­nah wants a tree to climb right now! While dad rests she tries climb­ing trees. She fails with the slip­pery Euca­lyp­tus and the scratchy Pine. The knobs on the Olive’s trunk get her to the top, but she sneezes and falls down. The Carob is too young. Her father sug­gests she plant an abba tree and she does, using his feet as roots and his strong arms to hold a swing. His hair sprouts branch­es for the ben­e­fit of ani­mals and his pock­et hous­es a bird. Han­nah climbs up her father but she is too heavy and they both fall. Her father, abba, explains that they plant­ed the Carob tree when she was born for her chil­dren to have one day.

The final pic­ture shows her father as an old man, Han­nah an old­er mom, and a lit­tle boy try­ing to climb a tree. The illus­tra­tions deliv­er the plot, cre­at­ing a charm­ing book that ref­er­ences a touch­ing gen­er­a­tional tra­di­tion and Honi’s kind eco­log­i­cal lesson.

Tu B’shvat is a hol­i­day cel­e­brat­ed between mid-Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary on the fif­teenth (Tu) day of the Hebrew month Shvat to mark the New Year of the Trees. In Israel, chil­dren cel­e­brate by plant­i­ng trees. Out­side Israel, many Jews con­tribute funds to devel­op forests there. It is cus­tom­ary to try to eat foods from Israel, espe­cial­ly sev­en species men­tioned in Deuteron­o­my 8: wheat, bar­ley, grapes, figs, pome­gran­ates, olives, and dates. In ancient times the first har­vest of these foods became Tem­ple offer­ings. Some share a Tu B’shvat Seder fea­tur­ing these fruits. This warm pic­ture book shows us a love­ly hol­i­day which con­nects humans with nature.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

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