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Alan Zweibel lives in Los Angeles, California. David Catrow lives in Springfield, Ohio.
Gr 1-3-When a storm fells a favorite tree, Dad writes a letter to his children, who are visiting their grandparents, to tell them the bad news. He reminds them of the day the family surveyed the piece of land where their new home would be built. Trees had to be cleared, but this giant, dubbed "Steve" by the youngest who couldn't pronounce "tree," was spared. Through the years, Steve became the family swing, third base, laundry line, campground, and even a first love's trysting place. The pencil-and-watercolor cartoons feature Catrow's familiar round-faced children and their comical dog. They extend the spare text with many visual jokes. A cheery palette gives way to dark magenta and blue when the tree dies, a melancholy dog sprawled across its stump. Zweibel attempts to give the story a hopeful twist at the end, but, overall, it is a bittersweet and genuinely sad slice of life.-Marianne Saccardi, Norwalk Community College, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Zweibel's first book for children serves as the chronicle of a family's beloved leafy cornerstone, told in flashback by a father to his children. From the moment they first saw the lot where their house would be built, Adam, Lindsay, Sari and their dog, Kirby, were infatuated with a mammoth tree on the property. Two-year-old Sari pronounced the word "tree" as "Steve," and the name stuck. Saved from clearing, Steve became "a swing holder, target, third base, hiding place," as well as a backdrop for campouts, parties and play dates, and a provider of shade and beauty. But while the kids vacationed at Grandma's, a particularly strong storm toppled Steve, and Dad drafted a letter-this story-to prepare them before their return. TV and stage writer Zweibel fills his epistolary text with heartfelt emotion without overdoing it. His universal and realistic scenarios and characters are sure to strike a chord with a cadre of readers. Catrow's (I Ain't Gonna Paint No More!, reviewed above) watercolor-and-pencil compositions capture the enormous, comforting Steve in the glory of each season and depict a young, sprightly family appreciative of, and connected to, a natural treasure. His humorous images of a dog dragging underwear off the clothesline or Uncle Chester bursting out of a hammock make the sorrowful images of the bare trunk all the more poignant. Ages 4-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Zweibel and Catrow have created a faultless piece of bibliotherapy for children working through loss. (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)