I love receiving new books to review, but sometimes I can’t get to them immediately. Before I had a chance to dive into The Two Trees, a children’s book by Saskatoon writer\illustrator team Sally Meadows and Trudi Olfert, my visiting friend, Flo, picked the book off my kitchen counter and read it.
“What did you think?” I asked.
“Loved it,” Flo said. “It brought tears to my eyes.”
Any children’s story that can move an adult to tears is one I don’t want to wait another moment to read. I took the softcover book to my deck and in the few minutes it took to engage with the sensitively-written and pastel-illustrated story – about the relationship between two brothers, and the younger’s difficulty with the elder’s inability to socially interact “normally” both at home and school – I too, experienced the proverbial lump-in-throat that signifies an emotional connection’s been made.
“Wow,” I said, “what a strong metaphor for ‘otherness’”.
“I know,” Flo said. “And that word at the end, ‘almost’ … that’s what got me.”
This easy-to-read story begins with the side-by-side planting of two small evergreens by the young narrator, Jaxon. “One was for me. One was for my older brother,” Jaxon says. But brother Syd is nonplussed when asked about the tree, or most anything else. He is much more interested in sharing his gemstones, for example, and he can name them all. Time and again, Syd fails to interact with his family, neighbours and classmates. He is completely absorbed in his own world – a world which includes talking to himself, tearing paper “into tiny bits,” and having temper tantrums – and thus is ostracized by other children. Eventually even Jaxon stops trying to connect, opting instead to play with those who “played back”.
Syd lives with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, and kudos to Meadows for bringing this issue to light in a non-syrupy, full-circle story that will appeal to all ages. In her Author’s Note, Meadows – a singer\songwriter, educator and speaker, as well as a writer – explains that her book is “intended to raise awareness about the challenges of having an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) child … and to be a springboard for important discussions with ASD families, educators, students, and the general public.”
The book’s an excellent springboard indeed, complete with “Questions for Readers” and a “Recommended Reading List,” and I hope it reaches a broad audience, as it concerns one quality that can actually change societies. I’m talking about compassion, folks.
This is a story to spread and discuss. And Flo was right about that word, ‘almost’. I encourage you to buy the book, and find out why.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM THE SASKATCHEWAN PUBLISHERS GROUP WWW.SKBOOKS.COM