Sonderbooks Book Review of

The Tree of Life

How a Holocaust Sapling Inspired the World,

written by Elisa Boxer

illustrated by Alianna Rozentsveig

The Tree of Life

How a Holocaust Sapling Inspired the World

written by Elisa Boxer
illustrated by Alianna Rozentsveig

Review posted March 28, 2024.
Rocky Pond Books, 2024. 36 pages.
Review written March 20, 2024, from a library book.
Starred Review

Here's a nonfiction picture book about the Holocaust that manages to focus on the inspiring rather than the terrible.

The story is told simply, with more detail in the author's note in the back. From the start, the focus of the pictures is on the tree. Here's how the book begins:

In a season of sadness, hope came to the children as a tiny tree, tucked inside a boot.

It was winter, World War Two, and the boot belonged to a prisoner in a ghetto called Terezin.

There were children in the ghetto too. The prisoner saw they were scared and separated from their families.

He also saw a woman secretly teaching the children to read, write, and celebrate Jewish holidays. Tu BiShvat was coming -- The New Year of the Trees. The teacher, Irma Lauscher, risked her life when she asked the prisoner to sneak in a sapling. the prisoner risked his life when he said yes.

They planted the tree, and the children of the community gave drops from their water rations to keep it watered. Even when there were fewer and fewer children to care for it.

Even though the children who left were taken to a place that was even worse, that tree kept growing and kept hope alive. By the end of the war, the tree was taller than the children.

That tree, planted during the war in Terezin, grew to be sixty feet tall and stood as a symbol of hope across the generations. The teacher who planted it sent seeds from the tree all over the world.

We learn that the tree finally died in 2007 after a flood destroyed its roots. But the book ends with schoolchildren in New York City in 2021 planting a sapling born from the original tree, standing as one of over 600 trees throughout the world, grown from the original maple.

Like all picture books, this is one you'll appreciate more by looking at it yourself, and that won't take long. A sensitive and lovely story of hope rooted in the history of a terrible time.