Author: Alan Zweibel
Author Website: alanzweibel.com, catrow.com
Illustrator: David Catrow
Publisher: Puffin Books
Word Count: 462
This story is perfect for ages: 2-4, 4-6
Straight from Aunty LuLav
This is the story of a tree named Steve and his loving family. They grow side-by-side, enjoying the ups and downs of life together. Steve was a swing-holder, hiding place, and third base. He held the laundry and chubby Uncle Chester in the hammock.
Steve was there for it all, until one morning, after a storm, Steve was broken in half and had to be cut down. Only his stump remained.
This is a story of joy and a story of loss. It is a story of love and a story of family. Ultimately, it is a story of hope in remembering those we lose with happiness.
Scriptural Underpinnings & Positive Themes
A LETTER FROM HOME
The whole story is written as a letter from Dad to his kids who are away at Grandma’s house. He writes to inform them of some sad news about Steve. The text is light and playful and Dad’s voice, very caring.
HOME & FAMILY
As a child, I found great solace playing in the woods, among the green giants and hanging from their limbs, when I needed a good place to think. I am always amazed at the generosity of trees and how blessed we are that Father God has placed them in creation for our enjoyment. Steve reminds me of that joy and beauty.
Zweibel writes a heart-warming description of home within the text.
The author writes:
“Through the years, Mom and I have tried to show you, in a world filled with strangers, the peace that comes with having things you can count on and a safe place to return to after a hard day or a long trip.” pg 21
That “sameness” is the element of home, that children, and adults alike, yearn for. Steve is a symbol of that “sameness” for this family.
The family in this story is shown interconnected with each other, the dog Kirby, and Steve the Tree.
SICKNESS, DEATH & LOSS
Illness comes when Steve gets sick and the tree doctor has to cut limbs to make Steve feel better. One night there is a storm and Mom and Dad find Steve broken in half with no way to save him. The next page shows only Steve’s stump remaining, with the dog sadly looking for him.
ONE STEP REMOVED
These pages open up a safe place to dialogue with children, about sickness and death and grief. Dad makes the kids aware that when they return from their trip to Grandma’s, Steve will not be there to greet them.
Much like the loss of a family member or loved one, there is a place that can never be filled, a hole remains.
Steve, being a tree and not a human, can open a dialogue that may feel a little less emotionally-charged for a child to discuss their feeling of loss or grief.
HOPE – GENERATION to GENERATION
As Dad concludes his letter, he encourages the kids to remember Steve in their hearts and thoughts and perhaps. . .
Steve’s relative at the other end of the yard!
The narrative is light and hopeful the whole way through. The last illustration shows a photograph on a table of the kids sitting in front of Steve and he is smiling!
Yes – maybe unintended, but there is even a hint of the work of Jesus. Dad tells the kids on age 25-26 that Steve acted lovingly. When Steve fell he avoided damage to the house, the swings, the dog house, the garden. The author writes, Steve “protected all of us to the very end, and friends like this are hard to find.”
It reminds me of Jesus teaching to us in John 15:12-13 (NKJV)
“This is my commandments that you love one another as I have loved you.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends”
Steve is a beautiful picture of Jesus in this way, that he was there always to love protect and serve his family and even in the last moments, protected their home from harm.
David Catrow is a Master of COLOR! The palette of Watercolor and Pencils effects happiness, love, playfulness and sadness. His use of color is bright and unexpected. truly the palette can tell the story alongside the text.
In the beginning, when Steve was just a tree on uncleared land, he was green and dappled among others. After the family home is built, Steve stands tall and proud with his family through their life activities.
Catrow uses the exact same HOME scene in each illustration, with color changes and character changes to tell the story. The PERMANENCE of Steve beside the family house, creates the sense of sameness, continuity, and stability. This speaks to our own family relationships. They are daily, ordinary, and are the foundation upon which we stand.
Each scene shows the family living around and relying upon Steve. Until one morning, after a storm, Steve is broken in half and has to be cut down. Only his stump remains. The last page is hopeful showing the photograph on the table of Steve smiling with the kids and Kirby, and through the window, we see a tree just like Steve in the yard!
The End of the Matter5/5 waves
I am WAVING the LULAV – 5 for 5 – for STEVE the TREE and his love for his family!
An Aunty Lulav Favorite.