book review

How Do We Change Mine into Ours? The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston

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Today we are venturing to the land and country of Lebanon and reading a most enduring and powerful story about sharing and restoration called The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston and Illustrated by Claire Ewart.

The Olive Tree

For many years Sameer lived next to an empty house which had been deserted during the Lebanese civil war. One day the family returns and with them comes their daughter Muna. There is a quiet politeness between the two families. Respectful and polite but not friendly.

Separating the two houses is a stone wall and a very old olive tree. The trunk of the tree is on Muna’s side of the stone wall and the branches hung over Sameer’s side of the wall.


Muna, feeling the tree is hers because the trunk is on her side of the fence, forbids Sameer to pick up the fallen olives which have dropped on his side of the wall.

Now no one benefited from the olives as they laid on the ground rotting.

One night a storm destroys the tree, leaving nothing left to fight over.

Both Sameer and Muna feel the loss of their ancient friend the olive tree. Trying to make Muna feel better Sameer said, ” At least you’ll have firewood. ” Sameer then started picking up wood chunks and quietly placing them by the side of Muna’s house.

Muna started picking up wood and branches and stacking wood next to Sameer’s house. Quietly they put their differences aside, stacking wood at each other’s houses until all the wood was picked up. Muna picked up the fallen olives and laid them on a chair outside of Sameer’s house.

Finally in one last gesture, they decided to plant a new olive tree between the houses so each family could benefit.

This story is beautifully and simply told. It tugs at the heart-strings and encourages all of us to do better, be generous, and work together. Along with Elsa Marston poignant story are exquisite illustrations by Claire Ewart which bring the story to life and gives us a glimpse into the beautiful country of Lebanon.

I highly recommend the The Olive Tree. It’s one that will grace our coffee table for years to come.

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This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!

A Closer Look

Some of you may know this and for some this might be news, my husband is from Lebanon and I’m happy to say that I have visited this country for nearly 30 years. It is beautiful in it’s variety of terrain. It’s largest city, Beirut sits on the Mediterranean sea but Lebanon also hosts very high mountains with forests of pine and cedar trees. It is totally possible to be skiing in the mountains and looking at the sea below.

We have many wonderful family memories of Lebanon and olive picking season is one of them. The harvest has just finished and it brings to mind one of the oldest olive groves on earth which just happens to be in Lebanon.

Noah’s Olive Trees

There is a grove of ancient trees way up north in the mountains of Lebanon. It is known that these are the very trees that a dove took a branch in it’s beak from to bring to Noah to show him the flood waters had subsided and land had been found. For thousands of years these trees have seen feast, famine, good times, war, and in a simple word, life. To this day the trees still bear fruit and they press olive oil from it.

Here’s a look at these old and beautiful giants who carry such a large lineage.

Noah's Olive Tree 1

noah's olive trees 2

noah's olive trees 3

noah's olive trees 4

noah's olive trees5

noah's olive trees 6

just a note: Because of the incredible difficulties the countries of Lebanon and Syria are facing these days I am not giving the specific location of these trees. I want to protect them for future generations and keep them from harms way.

Something to Do

Fun facts about Olives

Olives have been a staple in the Mediterranean for at least 5,000 years.

Olive trees may live to be 1500 years old, the average life span is about 500 years. There are olive trees in Lebanon and on the island of Crete that are at least 5000 years old.

Over 90% of world olive production is used to make oil, and almost 98% of the acreage is in the Mediterranean region.

Green olives are picked early in the season and black olives are picked later in the season as they have ripened and turned black.

California is the only state where olives are grown commercially.

There are 500 million olive trees in Europe, and 50 million in California. California produces less than 5% of the world crop, but it produces more than 70% of the ripe olives consumed in the U.S.

How to Cure Olives


Olives can’t be eaten right off the tree. The fruit of an olive tree is known as a drupe. It is very very very bitter and needs to be picked or cured. I couldn’t leave you today with out our family olive curing recipe.

1 pound of green olives
1 pound of black olives
Lemon wedges
2 tablespoons rock salt per 1 cup of water

Green olives are picked before they ripen. To prepare green olives, wash and then soak in water for 2 days – this helps remove any bitterness. Change the water at least twice a day.

Place the olives in sterilized jars with lemon wedges and cover with brine. Add a little olive oil on top, and seal. Leave them at least for 1 month before eating.

Black olives are picked at harvest time. Rub with coarse salt, cover with water and set aside for about 4 days. Place the olives with lemon wedges in sterilized jars and cover with brine. Add a little olive oil on top, and seal. Leave for at least 1 month before eating.

Added kick: You can put a hot pepper in the brine mix as the olives cure or pickle. It will make your pickles spicy with a kick but not too spicy.


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5 thoughts on “How Do We Change Mine into Ours? The Olive Tree by Elsa Marston

  1. I love trees and these pics are incredible! Thanks so much for sharing, Valarie, and for the review of what sounds like a wonderful book 🙂

  2. What a beautiful book and the olive trees are so amazing. Thanks also for your olive curing recipe and for joining us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

  3. This sounds like a wonderful book, and those photographs are stunning! Our family will be exploring Lebanon in depth next year, and this will be a great resource – thanks!

    1. Let me know if you need other resources for Lebanon. I have a bunch plus I’ll be traveling there in the spring. Let me know if you’d like anything and I’ll bring it back with me.

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