ANGELA AND THE CHERRY TREE
by Raphaele Frier, illustrated by Teresa Lima – Berbay Publishing, 2013
ages 4 to 12 years / picture books + emotional resilience, heartwarmers
Angela—who gets up before daybreak—waits for a special visitor.
As she waits she bakes shortbread cookies, the ‘lovely sweet smell’ reminding her of her childhood. ‘That’s why she makes them so often.’
She becomes anxious as she waits and, with ‘her heart lurching in all directions’, she tries playing along to a quiz game on television. ‘That’s when she hears a small voice behind her … ’A shadow of Angela’s girlhood self has arrived. And ‘Angela is happy.’.
Angela the old lady, and Angela the little girl, go adventuring in the garden—until her loving and understanding son arrives.
Her son leads her home, where they look at a book of photos—and remember together.
The power in this book:
It's a melodic reminder to value the whole of a person's life and experiences. Angela is shown as a multi-dimensional person. She bakes and does puzzles now, and she has been a little girl who loved cherries and the snails on irises.
It speaks to love and remembering, as well as long goodbyes and grief. Touching and beautiful to read as an adult, for children it may be just the reassurance they need: when emotions are expanded and life seems overwhelming, there will be hope and loving arms to guide them gently home.
It opens a conversation path for talking about dementia. Because that is such an emotionally fraught topic, especially where it is also personal, it’s wonderful to have a way to begin a conversation. The conversation might be urgent and overt, perhaps about a beloved grandparent who is showing signs of dementia—or general and philosophical as a way to explain the effects of dementia on an individual and on those around them.
The crafting of the story is beautiful. Angela’s visitor isn’t introduced or explained, instead she unfolds in a way that gives young readers space to see themselves in young Angela before they realise who she really is. And for older readers, the connection between Angela and her son is tender and full of the promise of familial love.
Names in this book – Angela, John