A Tree for Peter
A book review for parents
This drama by Kate Seredy is published by Purple House Press and is written for kids ages 9 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
"Small" Peter is a lame boy living in Shantytown when he meets a vagrant named King Peter. King Peter befriends the child and opens a world of hope by introducing Peter to the beauty of nature that lies beyond his dirty village. The man, who appears only to Peter, brings the boy a spade and, later, a tree. The whole town eventually is inspired to embark on a clean-up effort of epic proportions. Peter's faith is the catalyst that transforms a squatters' camp into a clean, attractive area alive with vegetation. Peter decides to become a builder when he grows up, and through those efforts, he continues to change the world for the better.
At Christmas, Peter's mother reads to him from the Bible about Jesus, including His death on the Cross. She says Christ is a king who now walks the earth bringing comfort to those who need him. Hearing this, Peter is convinced he's discovered the true identity of King Peter (who does, indeed, serve as a Christ figure by helping and encouraging Peter and, consequently, the whole of Shantytown). When the King brings Peter a Christmas tree, the town calls it a miracle. They come together and sing "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear." Later, when the community feels discouraged about their efforts to rebuild Shantytown, Peter hums "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful" and renews their spirits.
King Peter teaches small Peter to be brave and kind. He introduces the boy to the beauty of nature through adventure and brings him a spade and a tree to grow his own garden. He suggests that when one person makes an effort to create beauty, others will follow. Policeman John Patrick O'Flanahan visits Shantytown just to check on small Peter. The officer helps Peter plant a garden and befriends the boy's mother, who works most of the time and often falls asleep in mid-activity. Still, she clearly loves her son.
Other Belief Systems
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
The author writes in a more innocent time (1940s) and depicts Peter immediately crawling into the lap of a vagrant he has just met. Peter keeps this friendship from his mother because he doesn't want to reveal his "secret treasure." In our day of rampant pedophilia and child pornography, these scenarios raise red flags. Parents may want to discuss the difference between fear (which Peter learns to overcome in this tale with King Peter's help) and wise caution concerning strangers.
- Do you think King Peter was meant to represent Christ in this story?
- Which of his attributes or actions were godlike?
- Peter didn't save the whole world; still, he became a hero to those in Shantytown.
What can you do to make your community a better place?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.