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Our Tree Named Steve Hardcover – March 17, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


In a letter to his three children who are visiting their grandparents, a father recalls all the wonderful things Steve the tree has been to their family. When they visited the empty lot where they would build their house, Sari, the youngest, couldn't say tree, so she said "Steve." Thus, a family friend was dubbed. He was perfect for shade and hanging laundry when the dryer broke. He even held a hammock for fat Uncle Chester and drank all the sewer water when the sump backed up. Being a tree has its dangers, and a storm knocked Steve down. Friend to the last, Steve didn't fall on the house, doghouse, swing set or garden. Dad's writing to warn the kids that Steve won't greet them when they return, but his lumber has made a wonderful new playhouse. Zweibel and Catrow have created a faultless piece of bibliotherapy for children working through loss. Catrow's usual bright, wide-eyed, exuberant watercolors bring individuality and immediacy to Zweibel's simple text. Steve's almost-face shines in each illustration of this sentimental tribute.

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 2 - 5 years
  • Lexile Measure: 890L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (March 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399237224
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399237225
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 0.3 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,331 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An original "Saturday Night Live" writer who the New York Times says has "earned a place in the pantheon of American pop culture," Alan has won multiple Emmy, Writers Guild of America, and TV Critics awards for his work in television, which also includes "It's Garry Shandling's Show" (which he co-created and produced), "Monk," "PBS's Great Performances," and "Curb Your Enthusiasm".

A frequent guest on late night talk shows, Alan's theatrical contributions include his collaboration with Billy Crystal on the Tony Award winning play "700 Sundays", Martin Short's Broadway hit "Fame Becomes Me", and the off-Broadway play "Bunny Bunny - Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy" which he adapted from his best-selling book.

Other books by Alan are the 2006 Thurber Prize winning novel "The Other Shulman", the popular children's book "Our Tree Named Steve", "North", a collection of short stories and essays titled "Clothing Optional, and the novel "Lunatics" that he co-wrote with Dave Barry.

Alan's humor has also appeared in such diverse publications as The New Yorker, Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Op-Ed page, The Huffington Post and MAD Magazine. He has also penned two best selling e-books titled "From My Bottom Drawer: Vols. I and II".

The co-writer of the screenplays for the films "Dragnet", "North", and "The Story of Us", Alan has received an honorary PhD. from the State University of New York and because of the diversity of his body or work, in 2010 the Writers Guild of America, East gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Alan is currently an executive producer on Showtime's documentary series "Inside Comedy" starring David Steinberg, is writing and producing a pilot for IFC, is awaiting publication of a forthcoming middle grade novel titled "Benjamin Franklin: Huge Pain In My Ass" (Hyperion) that he co-wrote with Adam Mansbach, and is writing the book for a Broadway musical version of "Field of Dreams.

And in addition to the late night talk shows, on the TV screen he's also appeared in episodes of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" and "Law & Order".

But the production that Alan is most proud of is the family he's co-produced with his wife Robin; their children Adam, Lindsay and Sari; and their grandchildren Zachary, Alexis, Jordan and Kylie.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By LonestarReader on April 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The emotional punch that 32 pages of illustrations and text can deliver never ceases to amaze me. "Our Tree Named Steve" is so funny and so touching that upon finishing it for the first time I immediately reopened the book and read it again and then again to savor the humor and the beautiful story. Steve is the name a family gives to a special tree in their yard. Over the years it holds swings and hammocks, turns jump ropes, acts as third base, appears in family photos and shelters their home. The tree watches over the family as the children grow and change. Steve's "last trick" will make you gasp in dismay. There is solace for the family (and us) as Steve's spirit lives on.

David Catrow was exactly the right person to design this book. His illustrations are a perfect balance of humor and pathos. I love the dog. Alan Zweibel is a gifted television comedy writer but this is his first children's book. He must be congratulated. He has crafted something quite wondrous and fine.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer R. Scharf on April 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure who loved this book more - me or the kids! Set around one very special tree, "Our Tree Named Steve" traces the life of family and the changes that they go through. But through all of the changes, one thing remains constant - Steve's presence in their lives. The family quite literally grows up around Steve, the tree that greeted them in the yard as they moved in. This story, told with earnest simplicity, teaches children about the "roots" of family and how to cope with loss. This book is filled with humor, warmth and heart. Children of all ages will love "Steve" - and parents will love reading it to them.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By DoctorJoeE on April 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Every parent should read this book to his or her children. You AND the kids will love it, be moved by it, and learn something from it.

For those who don't know, Alan Zweibel is the best and funniest writer you've never heard of -- one of the original writers on Saturday Night Live, creator of Garry Shandling's show, writer of many books, movies, TV've almost certainly laughed at his material more than a few times without ever knowing he wrote it.

This is his first foray into children's books, as far as I know, but he has succeeded admirably. One hopes he will continue to enrich this genre.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A. Phillips on April 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my little sister and found myself enjoying it as much as she did during her story time. Explaining loss to a child is never easy but the author has found a way to do so using language a child can understand. The book focuses on the memories that we make with the important people and things in our lives and reminds us that they are never really gone. The book also reminds us that every act, whether it is a family barbeque or a simple game can help bind a family together. I recommend that every parent buy this book it helps turn a difficult topic into something uplifting.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Joynt on May 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
With infinite grace and deep understanding, Alan Zweibel imparts this tale of tradition, growing up, and the enduring spirit of family. Steve is more than just a tree- Steve is a vital part of the family, and the deference accorded him is both heartwarming and very realistic.

This book meant a lot to me because I had a climbing tree like Steve when I was growing up. My Steve aged over many years of Western New York winters. My parents ultimately had to pay a tree surgeon (I didn't know they existed either) to prolong the tree's life by a few more years. Now all that remains of the tree are memories. For me, this book captures all of what I remember of that climbing tree, and happy memories of growing up.

Alan Zweibel has done an amazing job of weaving together timeless themes in a new and touching package. This book is a must read!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. Blankenship HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on November 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
I will tell you right from the start that this is an emotionally powerful book and I can be and often in a tear jerker; especially if you are dealing with a sensitive child or have leanings in that direction yourself. I must admit that each time I read this work I get sort of teary eyed.

This is the story of a tree; a very special tree that has a special impact upon the family who lives in his shade. It stands at the children grow and many wonderful memories are attached to this magnificent member of the family; and indeed, Steve the tree is a member of the family...have no doubt.

Through the years many happy memories are associated with this tree and to be frank, Steve's ultimate end in a storm does pack an emotional blow.

But all that being said, there are many, many wonderful messages in this little book. The meaning of family, the joys of nature and being involved with her, the ability of dealing with loss and the lesson of hope and renewal. While it is a sad story, the getting to the sad part is a pure joy. You will find yourself not only smiling quite often, but also actually laughing. The wonderful and quirky art work by David Catron is a pure joy to behold.

The text is written in the form of a letter from a father to his children who have obviously left home and started life on their own. The text is simple yet extremely profound and touching. Now I have lost several special trees in my life and the experience is quite like loosing a member of the family or beloved pet. The author catches the essence of this perfectly.

I personally don't feel this is the best of "bedtime" stories for the little one as they are bound to have Steve the tree on their minds, but as an overall read, it is one of the best.
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