The Survivor Tree by Gaye Sanders

The Survivor Tree by Gaye Sanders

survivor tree.jpg

So, “The Survivor Tree” is very different than the books I usually do. Same genre, children’s, but this picture book has a much, MUCH more solemn theme.

Recently, I’ve been writing a lot more reviews trying to keep up one of my New Year’s resolutions to review 12 picture books a month. Sometimes, I end up using a lot of the same words and phrases: “super fun”, “sweet”, “easy read”, “cute”, etc. Obviously, those are not appropriate descriptors for a book that recounts the Murrah Bombing. Finding the right words for this review is difficult to say the least.

To start, I’ll mention my favorite parts of the book. The illustrator’s artistic style is absolutely spot-on for the tone. Children can relate to colored pencil drawings, and Pamela Behrend does a lovely job! I have to highlight Gaye’s magnificent use of repetition. As the story progresses, the tree circles back to describing a day a certain way: a productive day, a day for courage, days of healing, etc. It gives the story cohesiveness and flow. Love it that writing style. I do it, too, in my own writing. Also, I was surprised the story has a first-person point of view! I don’t know what I was expecting, but with that perspective, the reader really connects and empathizes with the main character, the Survivor Tree. Brilliant writing choice, Gaye!

Now, the story touched me on a personal level in two different ways. Firstly, as an Okie I have grown up with the tragedy of the Bombing. I was only five years old when it happened, so it was a prominent part of my childhood. As kindergarten at my school was half-day, I was home with my mother. We went out to the front porch and looked east, the direction where the smoke pillars rose in the sky. I grew worried for my father who worked in Oklahoma City, but my mama assured me his office was in a different part of town. Secondly why this book means so much, well, I wrote a draft of a serious children’s book just a week or so ago. It was a bit of train-wreck according to the first round of readers. I wanted to take a crack at a picture book for young children and how to deal with bullying. I was truly excited with the way I was approaching this sensitive topic; I thought it was unique. Feedback came and replaced excitement with disappointment. But such is the writer’s journey! Disheartened, I haven’t felt up to writing on any of my WIPs (work in progress). I couldn’t wait to read “The Survivor Tree” and see how a professional wrote an eloquent, but solemn, children’s book. Hoped to get some tips to improve draft 2 of my bullying book, and I know I’ll do better thanks to Gaye’s writing.

Tell me about a serious, or even sad, book that touched you? Did it leave a mark on you in a positive way? Did it change you or help you cope?