Cover image for I have an olive tree
I have an olive tree
Bunting, Eve, 1928-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins Publishers, [1999]

Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 23 x 26 cm
After her grandfather's death, eight-year-old Sophia fulfills his last request and journeys to Greece with her mother to see the land where her roots are.
General Note:
"Joanna Cotler books."
Reading Level:
AD 510 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.2 0.5 32487.

Reading Counts RC K-2 2.8 2 Quiz: 16405 Guided reading level: P.
Geographic Term:
Added Author:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PIC. BK. Juvenile Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The day I was seven, my grandfather gave me and olive tree...At first, Sophia thinks the tree is an odd gift, but when Grandfather dies and her mother travel to Greece to see the tree, she discovers that what he discovers that what he has given her is far greater than she'd ever imagined.

A testimony to the wondrous ties of family and heritage, this glorious picture book brings together the beautiful writing of acclaimed author Eve Bunting and the exuberant paintings of artist Karen Barbour.

Author Notes

Eve Bunting was born in 1928 in Maghera, Ireland, as Anne Evelyn Bunting. She graduated from Northern Ireland's Methodist College in Belfast in 1945 and then studied at Belfast's Queen's College. She emigrated with her family in 1958 to California, and became a naturalized citizen in 1969.

That same year, she began her writing career, and in 1972, her first book, "The Two Giants" was published. In 1976, "One More Flight" won the Golden Kite Medal, and in 1978, "Ghost of Summer" won the Southern California's Council on Literature for Children and Young People's Award for fiction. "Smokey Night" won the American Library Association's Randolph Caldecott Medal in 1995 and "Winter's Coming" was voted one of the 10 Best Books of 1977 by the New York Times.

Bunting is involved in many writer's organizations such as P.E.N., The Authors Guild, the California Writer's Guild and the Society of Children's Book Writers. She has published stories in both Cricket, and Jack and Jill Magazines, and has written over 150 books in various genres such as children's books, contemporary, historic and realistic fiction, poetry, nonfiction and humor.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 4^-8. These two cross-generational stories about family roots will touch many immigrant children and those whose relatives have traveled far from home. Sophia is a Greek American child in the U.S. who tells how Grandfather gives her a special birthday present before he dies: an olive tree on the small island where her mother grew up. It is all that is left of his home "in the Greek earth." He asks Sophia to go back with her mother and hang her grandmother's string of beads on that tree. Barbour's brightly colored double-page paintings with thick black lines combine folk art and magic realism to show the circles of connection that sweep across time and place as Sophia journeys with Mama to the island. They board the ferry boat while local people bustle around them, and Sophia watches Mama get quieter and quieter, intensely moved to be coming home. They see the family house, the field, and, finally--in a double-page vertical picture--the old olive tree rooted in the earth. The child's view of her mother's sorrow adds to the rich story of loss and renewal. In Naomi Shihab Nye's Sitti's Secrets (1994), an American child visits her Arab grandmother in Palestine. Here Geddoh (Grandfather) comes from the Middle East to the U.S. to visit Alex's family. The child's first-person narrative and the warm, full-page oil paintings focus on the loving bond between the boy and the older man, from the close embrace of their first exciting meeting at the airport to their sharing of gifts, food, games, and stories. The portraits are realistic and individualized. Geddoh wears Western clothes, and he talks proudly about the large city he lives in by the Mediterranean Sea; he also tells how the mosque calls him to prayers; and when he and Alex have a picnic by the ocean, Geddoh rolls out his prayer mat at sunset. Children will understand Alex's anger and sorrow at Geddoh's leaving. Many will also recognize the lasting family connections, the way letters can be "a thread of love across the ocean." --Hazel Rochman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this visually arresting picture book, Sophia "receives" an olive tree from her grandfather on her seventh birthday, one that still grows on his native Greek isle. Months later, her dying grandfather requests that Sophia and her mother travel from California to Greece to the olive tree to hang the beads that had belonged to Sophia's grandmother, as a remembrance. During the course of the trip, Sophia learns a great deal about her family's homeland. Bunting (Smoky Night) spins a quietly nostalgic tale that transports readers to the exotic setting with images of whitewashed houses "sleeping in the sun" and a sponge seller's wares "stacked around him like great lumps of honeycomb." In a visual homage to Greek culture, Barbour (Street Music) deftly adapts her folk-art style to incorporate elements of local art and architecture in everything from the color schemeÄcobalt blue against white, lemon yellow and olive purpleÄto the characters' profiles, as stylized as those stamped on Greek coins. The townspeople wear traditional peasant dress; the legs of a table resemble Corinthian columns; and in a nod to Greek mythology, a sofa pillow is decorated with a winged horse. Barbour gives the tale a dramatic pause with a vertical spread showing the story's central image. The olive tree stands against a Van Gogh-esque landscape of flowing lines and swirling dabs of paintÄand takes on a life of its own. Ages 4-8. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-For her seventh birthday, Sophia's grandfather gives her an unusual gift-an olive tree, a symbol of this Greek-American family's heritage and ancestral home. Although the girl would have preferred a skateboard at the time, the gift takes on more import when her grandfather dies a year later. Sophia and her mother then make a pilgrimage to Greece to hang her grandmother's beads on the family tree in accordance with her grandfather's last wishes. Placing the beads in the barren, aging olive tree behind the family's former home enables Sophia to feel connected to her roots and she vows to return someday. The folk-art illustrations' color, style, and choice of subjects lend flavor to a story that celebrates ethnicity. At times, though, the palette seems more vivid than the tale itself, which is a contemplative memory piece. Quiet and touching, it may encourage youngsters to explore their own family origins.-Rosalyn Pierini, San Luis Obispo City-County Library, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.