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Young Adult Fiction Jewish

The Book of Trees

by (author) Leanne Lieberman

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Nov 2010
Jewish, Middle East, Contemporary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2010
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2010
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 18
  • Grade: 8 to 12
  • Reading age: 12 to 18


When Mia, a Jewish teenager from Ontario, goes to Israel to spend the summer studying at a yeshiva, or seminary, she wants to connect with the land and deepen her understanding of Judaism.

Once in Israel, Mia's summer plans go astray when she falls in love with a non-Jewish tourist, Andrew. Through him, Mia learns about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and starts to question her Zionist aspirations. In particular, Mia is disturbed by the Palestinian's loss of their olive trees, and the state of Israel's planting of pine trees, symbolizing the setting down of new roots. After narrowly escaping a bus bombing, Mia decides that being a peace activist is more important than being religious.

About the author

LEANNE LIEBERMAN is the author of five young adult novels, including The Most Dangerous Thing, Gravity (Sydney Taylor Notable), The Book of Trees and Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust (Sydney Taylor Notable and Bank Street Best Book). Her adult fiction has been published in New Quarterly, Descant, Fireweed, the Antigonish Review and Grain. She’s a schoolteacher in Kingston, Ontario.

Leanne Lieberman's profile page

Excerpt: The Book of Trees (by (author) Leanne Lieberman)

We stopped by a simple stone monument.
"What does it say?"
Aviva paused to read the Hebrew. "It commemorates the soldiers who died while taking the hill in the 1948 War of Independence. There was probably a village here."
"What do you mean?"
"Probably some Arab village."
I turned to Aviva. "They planted trees over an Arab village?"
"Why would they do that?"
Aviva shrugged. "To make the land beautiful, I guess."
I stared at her. Then I rubbed my temples. Aviva seemed like a stranger. My head buzzed. I wanted to say, This is not a forest. Instead I said, "What happened to the people who used to live here?"

Editorial Reviews

"Lieberman's directness is refreshing."

Quill & Quire

"Well-balanced in exploring issues of faith and humanity in the Israel Palestine conflict through its Canadian teen protagonist…Recommended."

CM Magazine

"A complex and thought-provoking book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, through the fresh eyes of a Canadian teenager. Mia is a fascinating character, and an open book....More than just a book about a conflicted teenager, there are deep and important themes about social justice and equal treatment of all peoples...A great book for discussion to support a History or World Issues class."

Canadian Children's Book News

"The book is sure to spark controversy, but the questions raised are valid if peace is to occur...Recommended where free thinking is tolerated...This is a book that will spark good discussion."

Tri State YA Book Review Committee

"Food for thought that will resonate with young readers trying to understand why a country created as a haven after the Holocaust treats many of its inhabitants with so little respect."

Times & Transcript

"[A] realistic, sensitively drawn story of one teen's tumultuous, coming-of-age search for faith, cultural identity, and grown-up love."


"Poignant, thought-provoking, and haunting at times...Lieberman's story raises many questions, both religious and political. The reader will take this journey of self-discovery with Mia and may marvel or cower under its weight. Either way, this is a story that demands to be read, for so many different reasons."


"The novel's open-ended resolution and its portrayal of a strong, critical thinker in Mia do promise a positive future for the character...The well-told narrative and the argument that critical thinking leads to compassion and just action towards others make this novel an attractive choice for young adults."

Canadian Literature

"Explores the problems between Israelis and Palestinians and tries to give voice to both sides. Lieberman uses specific examples in history to explain the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and their response with terrorism…The quest for Mia to match her heart and faith with her fear of the truth is appealing to follow. The setting was richly described, letting the reader feel Israel and the need to see it firsthand…We know Mia's heart before she does, but [the plot] is sweet nonetheless."

Resource Links

"Very eye-opening…The Book of Trees is a stand-out in Canadian Jewish literature for teens."

Kirsten Anderson, Teen Services Librarian

"Teenage girls especially will relate to Mia's self-awareness, independence, and strength, and will appreciate her attempts to find her place in an increasingly complicated adult world. Fans of other quietly contemplative, spiritually-grounded stories will enjoy the questions that Lieberman raises about faith, belonging, family, and finding one's purpose."

Puget Sound Council for Reviewing Children's Media

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