The Tree of Hope: The Miraculous Rescue of Puerto Rico’s Beloved Banyan

Beaming. Aug. 2022. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781506484099.
Gr 2-5–A moving tribute to a beloved tree located at Old San Juan Gate, that weathered the storm and brought hope to Puerto Rico. An ancient banyan tree (or jagüey blanco) overlooks the colonial city of Old San Juan, providing shelter for the people of the Caribbean island, bearing witness to their joys and sorrows. When a hurricane ravages the island nation, the tree also falls victim to the storm, and tumbles into the sea, with only its stump and roots still on land. As the Puerto Rican people tried to recover from the natural disaster, they joined together to bring the tree back to life. Its restoration brought hope to the islanders as they struggled to overcome the grief and loss that devastated their home. Inspired by true events in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, this story is tenderly and respectfully told. With a layer of nature-filled spirituality, the jagüey’s nostalgic narration feels fablelike and otherworldly. Moreno’s painterly illustrations feature a diverse community of Black, brown, and white people. The tree is lovingly depicted in a bright, emerald hue, always looming large. It seems to lean in toward the characters as they experience their day-to-day triumphs. Especially effective is the spread in which the artist presents the passage of time via sepia-colored panels that eventually shift to brightly colored images of the present day.
VERDICT A powerful debut picture book about community, the determination of the Puerto Rican people, and a majestic and resilient tree. Purchase for all picture book collections.

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