'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 16 March 2018

Review: My Sweet Orange Tree

Translated into English for the first time, this International bestseller is a stunning work of great literary merit. Deeply moving, it tells the story of the highly intelligent but mischievous prankster Zeze, whose tremendous capacity for kindness, is matched only by his naughtiness. He pays for this naughtiness with severe beatings from his family members.

Zeze longs for tenderness. His mother is always absent, working to keep the family alive. His father is angry and distant, the result of being unemployed for ages. Zeze replaces what he doesn’t have with a fierce imagination; a creative ability to hear trees talk, to create imaginary friends, and to spin stories to entertain his beloved younger brother, King Louis.

When Zeze finally meets someone who recognizes his pureness of heart and abounding gifts, life has meaning at last.

This classic children’s book has never been out of print in Brazil since it was first published in 1968. It is set in a shanty town and tells of the author’s childhood in Rio de Janeiro, of their abject poverty, lack, and dreams that won’t die. It is relayed in first person, through a five year old voice. It exposes unreservedly the inhumanness of poverty, the human need for tenderness and kindness, and the search for a reason to go on living when hope is lost. It’s an unforgettable book that will nestle in your heart permanently.

The story’s mixture of  overwhelming sadness and joy, keeps the reader transfixed. Zeze’s incredible philosophical way of viewing the world, and his sharp wit, will keep you smiling and turning the pages, while wiping tears from your eyes.

This is one of the most emotive works I have read in years. We can celebrate its translation into English, for having read it, I realize what the English speaking world has been missing out on with its till now, inaccessibility.

Title: My Sweet Orange Tree
Author: Jose Mauro De Vasconcelos
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, $18.99
Publication Date: January 2018
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781782691532
For ages: 7+
Type: Junior Non Fiction