When I first saw The Sour Cherry Tree by Naseem Hrab, I thought it was going to be an Asian folktale. Instead, this lovely story of a granddaughter saying goodbye to a beloved grandfather is a realistic story with Arabic characters. But the great part is, it is relatable no matter your background.
Anyone with a grandparent that maybe you did not have a terrible close relationship with but had a very special one will understand how the young girl feels the day she learns her grandfather had no one to bite his toe, so he forgot to wake up one morning.
This is where Hrab almost lost me. The book opens with the girl biting her mother, followed by getting ready to go to the grandfather’s house. Once we get there, however, I was on board. The child tells the things that they did with their grandfather, the reasons why they did them, but also how it is not the same now that he is not there to be woken up, or that it seems empty without him talking to her mother as the child plays. The bittersweet image here of the child wearing her grandfather’s too big slippers and the story she tells of him hiding, but because of the slippers she could always find them, was one of the best parts of the whole book.
Another part I liked was how Hrab shows the grandfather and granddaughter’s personalities. The grandfather gives the girl a treat that she is not really found of, but she takes it anyways, to have time with him. And they also show his personality by showing how he speaks loud in his native language, but soft in English.
The soft illustrations created by Nahid Kazemi along wit the child-viewpoint text, creates a story of memory, love, and connection. For older readers/listeners.