Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Multicultural Children's Book Day: Book Review & Activity for "The Olive Tree"

I'm so excited to be part of Multicultural Children's Book Day, taking place on January 27th. Anyone who follows this blog knows the importance I place on books and reading multicultural books with our kids - diverse stories are one of the best gateways to explore the world. I've been given the opportunity to review a lovely story set in Lebanon, which has been a great introduction to our family's year long virtual travel to Lebanon beginning in late February. 

Multicultural Children's Book Day was created by children's reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book & Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom. Their mission is to "not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries." What a wonderful mission and goal to support!

Did you know?
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. 

Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

You can find an amazing compilation of diversity book lists & resources for parents and educator here.

They've also partnered with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

Read more about Multicultural Children's Book Day, their co-hosts & sponsors below after our review and activity.

The Olive Tree

The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston is a wonderful story of sharing and forgiveness. Sameer and his family have lived next to an empty house for many years since the war because the family that once lived there had to flee. During those years, Sameer and his family have been enjoying the olive tree, and its olives, that overlooks both gardens. When a young girl, Muna, and her family returns, Sameer is excited to befriend someone his age. However Muna, whose family is different from most in their village, keeps to herself and her parents. She doesn't want to play with Sameer, and she doesn't want to share the olives from the tree that has grown on her side of the fence. 

During a storm, lightning strikes and destroys the tree along with part of the wall between the neighbor's homes. This event becomes a catalyst in Sameer's and Muna's relationship - Sameer helps Muna and her family clear the debris, for which Muna is deeply grateful, and a friendship begins to grow. 

This is a wonderful story with lovely watercolor illustrations that shares the message of the good that comes from overcoming prejudices, and showing generosity and compassion to each other.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from Wisdom Tales as part of Multicultural Children's Book Day. All opinions are my own. In the spirit of MCCBD, I will be donating my copy to Halifax Public Libraries.

Extension Activity

Create an olive "sharing" tree that grows with every act of generosity, cooperation and forgiveness.

This "tree" is a way to show our kids we recognize and honor their acts of generosity, cooperation and forgiveness - or generally, kindness - as well as a good exercise in helping them recognize these acts from others. The idea is to add an "olive" to the tree when you witness an act of kindness from others. It's sometimes easy for kids (and us adults) to take for granted seemingly small moments of generosity and cooperation. This tree will bring more awareness, and in turn gratitude and kindness to everyone. 

After reading "The Olive Tree" take a moment to talk to your kids about how Muna and Sameer chose to share and work together, how much happier they were for it and how this fostered friendship and compassion. Then bring up making a family "olive tree", and think of examples within your family that would help the "olive tree grow", even just over the past day or two.

To make the tree, gather branches from outside and place them in a vase. Using scissors or a 1" circular punch, cut out green circles for the olives. To hang them, use a hole punch to make a hole in each circle. Then place them, with a pen, next to the tree. And watch it grow!

Would you like to read about more great multicultural books with activities to go along with them?
Check out the linky on January 27th for Multicultural Children's Book Day where bloggers will link up their reviews and activities to promote the reading of multicultural books on their site here.

Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. The Multicultural Children's Book Day team hopes to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. They encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via the hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.

MCCBD is Co-Hosted by the following excellent blogs. You can view them here.

MCCBD is also collaborating with Children’s Book Council whose contribution and support has been instrumental in highlighting wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year. 

Of course, much of this is possible thanks to their generous sponsors:

MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include:

Platinum Sponsors:

Gold Sponsors:  

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors:


  1. I am looking forward to your Lebanon study. What made you decide upon Lebanon?
    The book looks very interesting and I love the tree craft to go along with it - what a lovely idea!

    1. I knew I wanted to do a country from the middle east, and Elle really wanted to do Lebanon because she has a few classmates from there and she loves the food :) I've been surprised though at how little information I can find specific to Lebanon, other than about the conflicts. Well, at least there's food!

  2. The Olive Tree is a wonderful choice for Multicultural Children's Book Day. Your sharing tree is a beautiful and creative accompaniment. I can't wait to start one, too.

  3. Happy Multicultural Children's Book Day. Marie this is simply a wonderful and creative review. This is one of my favorite books and my family has enjoyed it immensely. I see you're going to do a unit study on Lebanon. My husband is from Lebanon. Please let me know if you need anything. I have tons of resources. :) Thanks for celebrating with us today. So glad we could do this together !!!

    1. Thank you Valarie - I may have to take you up on your offer, I'm finding it surprisingly difficult to find information other than recipes. And its been a great pleasure being able to be a part of such a wonderful initiative!

  4. Happy Multicultural Children's Book Day! I love the activity and the beautiful tree you and your kids created!

  5. Nice summary, and cool extracurricular activity!

  6. Beautiful book and I love your extension activity! I would love to read this to my kids.

    1. Thank you Stephanie, I'm sure you and your kids would enjoy this story.

  7. It looks like a great book, and as always I'll be excited to see what you do about the new country. There's just some countries that are hard to find stuff for.

    1. Yes this one is difficult, and I have to say I'm surprised!

  8. Nice, this book is perfect for the children in our charity. They need a book like this to develop their artistic skills especially for different cultures. I hope we can get copies of this book. Thanks!


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