This review is part of Susana Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book Series. Please see her wonderful site for a massive list of reviews of children's books and also the Picture Book Month Teachers Guide, which can be used by parents as well.
Yuvi's Candy Tree
Written by: Lesley Simpson
Illustrated by: Janice Lee Porter
Published by: Kar-Ben Publishing, 2011
Intended Audience: Ages 4-8yrs
Fiction BUT the titular character is based on a real person and her experience with migration
I escaped on a donkey in the dark...
Based on the true story of Yuvi Tashome and her experience as a Jewish refugee from Ethiopia trying to make her way to Israel, as part of the Israeli government's 'Right to Return' policy. This story depicts Yuvi and her family's experience with migration and enduring hunger, thirst, the desert, dust and being robbed, before reaching the promised land.
Themes: ancestry and connecting with one's history and identity, family supporting each other through dark times, the harrowing experiences of refugees
- Geography: on a world map, ask your child/ren to point out Ethiopia and then Israel. Use colorful tacks of tape to mark these 2 countries. Then have your child trace possible migratory routes on this same map. Talk about the landscapes that a possible refugee would come across during their journey. How are these landscape useful or dangerous to humans?
- Social Studies: Explain to your child in an age-appropriate fashion the sufferings that refugee has to undergo during their journey, such as lack of food and clean water. This will help build empathy in your child.
- Learning through Play: ask your child to pack one small bag as if they are going on a long journey. What would they pack in that bag? How many of them are essential items and how many are sentimental?
Why I liked it: This is different than most children's books as it is exploring some heavy issues like refugees and migration. However, it is done in a whimsical and child-friendly manner with Yuvi dreaming of an abundant candy tree, which she hopes that she will see in her eventual homeland. This imaginary candy tree and the bountiful riches of her true home sustain Yuvi through her difficult journey and helps to blunt the more darker themes of this story for young readers. With well publicized migrant crisis situations happening currently, this is a timely book to read to your kids as well. And the dominant colors of this book are yellows and golds and browns in keeping with the desert landscapes found in Africa and Middle East, that can transport your child to a different world through reading, which is another aspect of the book that my son and I enjoyed.