Pearl Plants a Tree
While working on our gardening unit, I have read about every children's book our local library has to offer that has anything to do with gardening. Quite by accident, I stumbled across an unassuming little book by Jane Breskin Zalben titled, Pearl Plants a Tree.
Pearl's grandpa took her back to the old neighborhood and memories of his first spring in America. "This is the first house I lived in after I came over on the boat from the old country. The front stoop is so small. I remember it much bigger," Grandpa said. "There is the apple tree I planted from a seed. That's where I had my first birthday party, and where I asked Grandma to marry me. I remember it much smaller." That gave Pearl an idea.
I'm sure you can guess what Pearl's idea is. This simple story is expressed beautifully through simple language and endearing illustrations which carry you through the long winter into spring. Unlike most of the children's literature on the market today, this book succeeds at connecting with both the adult and the child. While I felt connected to the nostalgic quality of the story and the illustrations, my daughter connected with its potential. I identified with the grandfather looking back and sharing memories with his granddaughter. My daughter identified with the sense of future young Pearl imagines as she dreams of her apple tree.

The book ends with some further information, including tree-planting holidays around the world, an explanation of Jewish custom relating to trees and gives instructions on how to plant a tree. It is interesting to read the story first, then reread it after reading about the Jewish customs this story references. In this short passage, I also learned something interesting. The Torah is often referred to as the Tree of Life. This encouraged me to do a little more reading on the subject.
Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.
--Proverbs 3:13-19
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. In the Old Testament, this came through adherence to Torah, the Word of the Lord. In the New Testament, this comes through Christ, the Word of the Lord. Interestingly, surfing through some messianic sites I found an interesting translation:
In the beginning was the Torah, and the Torah was with God, and the Torah was God. The Torah was in the beginning with God. All things were made by the Torah; and without the Torah was not any thing made that was made. In the Torah was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not…And the Torah was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld its glory, the glory as of the first born of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Torah means instruction...the Word of the Lord...the Tree of Life. Through it, a connection is made between God and man. Just as a connection is established between Grandpa and little Pearl through the planting of an apple tree. Memories are shared and passed on to eventually outlive the one who shared it. For us, life itself is passed on as we will one day be invited to partake of the Tree of Life.

That is why I love quality children's literature. A simple story can draw connections well beyond itself. A simple story line told in simple words provide insipiration for further reflection and application. There are very few books I have found in that category, but now Pearl Plants a Tree ranks among them.

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