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The Book of Trees Paperback – October 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Growing up in Toronto, Mia learned some Jewish traditions from her secular single mom, but in high school, she grows increasingly interested in religious life, and after graduation, she accompanies an Orthodox friend to Jerusalem, where the girls will spend the summer studying at a yeshiva, or seminary. Once in Israel, though, Mia doesn’t find the sense of homecoming she’d hoped for. Instead, she feels increasingly alienated from her religious classmates and troubled by her growing understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then she falls for Andrew, a non-Jewish, American busker, with whom she has tender, meaningful sex. As Mia, a talented musician herself, meets Andrew’s friends who volunteer in Arab villages, her questions about statehood, human rights, and her own faith intensify. Lieberman acknowledges the novel’s roots in her own young adult experiences, and although the narrative sometimes takes on a purposeful tone, she grounds the wrenching issues in the realistic, sensitively drawn story of one teen’s tumultuous, coming-of-age search for faith, cultural identity, and grown-up love. Grades 9-12. --Gillian Engberg


"Well-balanced in exploring issues of faith and humanity in the Israel Palestine conflict through its Canadian teen protagonist…Recommended." (CM Magazine 2010-10-29)

"[A] realistic, sensitively drawn story of one teen's tumultuous, coming-of-age search for faith, cultural identity, and grown-up love." (Booklist 2010-12-01)

"Lieberman's directness is refreshing." (Quill & Quire 2010-11-01)

"Poignant, thought-provoking, and haunting at times...Lieberman's story raises many questions, both religious and political. The reader will take this journey of self-discovery with Mia and may marvel or cower under its weight. Either way, this is a story that demands to be read, for so many different reasons." (VOYA 2010-12-01)

"Food for thought that will resonate with young readers trying to understand why a country created as a haven after the Holocaust treats many of its inhabitants with so little respect." (Times & Transcript 2011-01-22)

"Very eye-opening…The Book of Trees is a stand-out in Canadian Jewish literature for teens." (Kirsten Anderson, Teen Services Librarian 2010-12-21)

"Explores the problems between Israelis and Palestinians and tries to give voice to both sides. Lieberman uses specific examples in history to explain the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and their response with terrorism…The quest for Mia to match her heart and faith with her fear of the truth is appealing to follow. The setting was richly described, letting the reader feel Israel and the need to see it firsthand…We know Mia's heart before she does, but [the plot] is sweet nonetheless." (Resource Links 2010-12-01)

"Teenage girls especially will relate to Mia's self-awareness, independence, and strength, and will appreciate her attempts to find her place in an increasingly complicated adult world. Fans of other quietly contemplative, spiritually-grounded stories will enjoy the questions that Lieberman raises about faith, belonging, family, and finding one's purpose." (Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children's Media 2011-01-11)

"The book is sure to spark controversy, but the questions raised are valid if peace is to occur...Recommended where free thinking is tolerated...This is a book that will spark good discussion." (Tri State YA Book Review Committee 2011-01-01)

"A complex and thought-provoking book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the fresh eyes of a Canadian teenager. Mia is a fascinating character, and an open book....More than just a book about a conflicted teenager, there are deep and important themes about social justice and equal treatment of all peoples...A great book for discussion to support a History or World Issues class." (Canadian Children's Book News 2011-01-01)

"The novel's open-ended resolution and its portrayal of a strong, critical thinker in Mia do promise a positive future for the character...The well-told narrative and the argument that critical thinking leads to compassion and just action towards others make this novel an attractive choice for young adults." (Canadian Literature 2011-12-20)

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 - 18 years
  • Grade Level: 8 - 12
  • Lexile Measure: 680L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers; 1St Edition edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554692652
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554692651
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,379,719 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Hooked on Books on October 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mia is a Jewish teenager from Toronto searching for her life to make sense. She decides at the last minute to spend the summer studying at a girl's yeshiva in Jerusalem. It is there she expects to bond with the land, the Israeli people and her religion. Mia believes that becoming more religious will put her life at peace. Only things don't go as she expects and she learns more about the land of Israel from the Palestinian perspective and becomes angry at Israel. This is a story that touches upon some of the truths and non-truths of the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict. But things change when Mia meets Andrew, who isn't Jewish. Andrew talks to her about the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian land and Mia starts to question it. She is not only disturbed by Israel's decisions to kick out the Palestinians but also realizes that maybe becoming a peace activist is much more important than becoming a religious Jew. The author uses trees as a major symbol in the story. Mia learns from Andrew that the Israel's pine trees replace the Palestinians olive trees. The symbol of these trees mean settling down new roots, but whose roots are they?

The Book of Trees is written more from the perspective of a non-Israeli and is also a great coming of age story that really speaks to the teenager. This is recommended reading for grades 7th and up. The author includes a glossary of terms in the back of the book with an authors note explaining why she wrote the story and her personal thoughts on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
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Format: Paperback
I would have given this book four stars, but thought it was a bit disjointed as a whole. So, though I think it well worth reading and thought provoking, I think three stars might be best.

The author won a contest via her first effort (Gravity) concerning a Canadian teenager trying to find her role in Judaism, not finding the Orthodox style of her parents quite her comfort level. She also had to face up to her sexuality. The book was not cited as such but it had a feel of a memoir, covering ground that took place in the 1980s (it was written a few years ago). The main character found God in nature, having a biological bent, and the book had autobiographical overtones (the author's brother is gay).

This one also appears to be partially autobiographical though again some things are changed. The author notes she too (if while taking graduate classes, not at seventeen) struggled over being a Jew and understanding the experiences of the Palestinians. She too wanted some middle ground, rejecting the sentiments (perhaps simplistically addressed) of some in the book that took a more zero sum game approach. This soul searching and attempt for a middle ground is shared by many, including many Jews here and in Israel. In fact, at times, it seems there is more self-criticism accepted there than in some places in America.

The protagonist here also is trying to find her way in Judaism, this time seemingly more religious than her parents. More than one person in the book found Judaism as a place to find community and savior from troubled backgrounds. Such is the path for many who seek answers, including in religion. Mia also finds a presence of God in nature, including trees and the desert.
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Format: Paperback
Gold Star Award Winner!

Mia goes to Israel with her friend, Aviva, to learn about the Jewish faith. At once Mia is enthralled by this foreign place and all of its beautiful landmarks, but she quickly learns that everything in Israel isn't as beautiful as it seems.

The Palestinians are fighting for a land that was once theirs but that now the Jews claim belongs to them. Mia learns that the Jewish religion can be quite bloody and ignorant at times, and she starts to question whether she can be a part of this faith - or any faith at all.

Along this journey she meets Andrew, a handsome guitar player who seems to know more about Israel's politics than she does. So with the help of Andrew, she tries to figure out whether she can continue in this faith, and what she plans to do about the turmoil in Israel.

Lieberman writes a truly wonderful book about a girl trying to figure out who she is and what she stands for while also trying to come to grips with the Jewish religion and the politics in Israel. Not only is this book touching on a personal level, but it is educational, too. It really brings to light the politics and turmoil in Israel; it helps the reader better understand what is going on in such a faraway place.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about a brave girls' journey to find love, her beliefs, and ultimately herself. It is truly inspiring and might give you the courage to find out who you are, as well.

Reviewed by: Steph
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on December 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
In this young adult novel, Leanne Lieberman creates an unlikeable young adult character named Mia who is searching for who she is. Mia is befriended by an Orthodox Jewish family in Toronto who seem to represent all the things that her family is not and she suddenly finds her religious identity. The family of Mia's friend Aviva, however, celebrates each Shabbat with joy and family togetherness, providing a model for the kind of life Mia believes she wants. Aviva invites Mia to join her in Israel for the summer at an Orthodox girls' seminary. Mia accepts a scholarship and follows her friend to Israel in the hopes of finding the deep commitment to Judaism that Aviva and her family have. On a sightseeing excursion, Mia finds a group of trees that were planted as part of the Jewish National Fund drive to revitalize the land of Israel. Mia is horrified to find out that the trees may have been planted on top of the remains of an Arab village destroyed in the 1948 War of Independence. Determined to find out what happened to the people that lived in the land before it became a Jewish state, Mia skips most of her classes at the seminary and wanders around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem where she meets a sexy young musician staying at a youth hostel near East Jerusalem. He introduces her to other young people who believe that the Jews are an occupying force who took over the land through terrorist acts and that the Palestinians are the rightful occupants. As suddenly as she had identified with Orthodox Judaism, she now awakens politically. The author expresses a very strong point-of-view in this novel. Unfortunately, it is a one-sided diatribe against the Jewish state, with supporters of Israel portrayed as naive.Read more ›
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