Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: A Tree For Peter by Kate Seredy

A Tree for Peter
Written and illustrated by Kate Seredy
Original Copyright 1941
Published in 2004 by Purple House Press

Peter is little, lame, fatherless, poor and "afraid of many things." His mother has to work every day in the city and he spends his week alone and frightened, living for Sunday, her day off. They live in Shantytown, an area of old abandoned houses that the poorest of the poor are squatting in as they try to eke out a meager living: it is a people and a place without hope. Until one day, small Peter meets Peter King, an old tramp who befriends him and teaches him to stop being fearful of life. As his outlook changes, he starts making friends, first with a mangy dog, and then with the Irish cop whose beat includes Shantytown. As he changes, he starts changing the world around him, little by little. From Peter King's kindness, a chain of events builds and transforms Small Peter and all the people of Shantytown.
  I loved this story. Loved it. I felt so helpless and depressed as I read about Peter being left alone day after day in those squalid conditions by a mother who clearly hated it as much as he did, but didn't have any other option. And I rejoiced when he found a kind heart to teach him to live beyond those fears.
  People of today might read the story and see only the unrealistic aspects compared to our own day: children left alone day after day without state interference; a friendship with a vagrant who turns out to be kind rather than deranged. But for me as a modern reader, I think this story still has bearing, and I appreciate the hope that drives the story, the inherent innocence of it, and the author's assumption that people are basically good and -more importantly- that one person can make a difference in the lives of others.
  Kate Seredy's beautiful, detailed, sepia illustrations accompany her amazing story, and set the tone.
  One of our family's very favorite stories, this makes a great read-aloud anytime, but especially at Christmas. (If you can get through it without weeping.)


  1. Such a sweet book! Kate Seredy's illustrations are delightful...look at expression on Peter's face. It projects so much joy!

  2. I read somewhere that she once said that writing her books was "an excuse for making pictures." She did both well.

  3. See how you inspired me!!!

  4. Wow! Thanks for sharing that! And thanks for mentioning me! I still need to read her other books. I have "Philomena" in my bookshelf waiting to be read.

  5. I read A tree for Peter to my 8th grade students for over 25 years. Each year,the incoming students asked if I would read the story of the little crippled boy who lived in Shantytown.
    I have been asked to find copies of the book so these former students can read it to their own children but have had no luck.
    I have to admit, I'm too selfish to give mine away.