The Tree of Hope: The Miraculous Rescue of Puerto Rico's Beloved Banyan

by Anna Orenstein-Cardona (Author) Juan Manuel Moreno (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

The true story of a beloved banyan tree and a community that fought to save it in the wake of Hurricane Maria. On the tropical island of Puerto Rico, there was an ancient banyan tree. His enormous twisted trunk rose up beside the San Juan Gate. Long roots hung from his wide-spreading branches and his emerald, leafy crown greeted all who passed by. This beloved tree stood on the shore of the island for over a hundred years--until the fateful time when the biggest hurricane in Puerto Rico's history slammed into the island, devastating communities and uprooting that very tree. This lushly illustrated and evocatively written picture book tells the story of the majestic jagüey blanco, one of the most beloved trees in the city of Old San Juan.

Puerto Rican author Anna Orenstein-Cardona weaves an epic tale based on the true story of this bearded watchdog of the island, how the tree was impacted by Hurricane Maria, and how a group of people rallied together to save it. With gorgeous illustrations by Juan Manuel Moreno, this picture book serves as an account of the devastating impact of Hurricane Maria and the strength of the people who continue to rebuild to this day.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

Gr 2-5—A moving tribute to a beloved tree located at Old San Juan Gate, that weathered the storm and brought hope to Puerto Rico. An ancient banyan tree (or jagüey blanco) overlooks the colonial city of Old San Juan, providing shelter for the people of the Caribbean island, bearing witness to their joys and sorrows. When a hurricane ravages the island nation, the tree also falls victim to the storm, and tumbles into the sea, with only its stump and roots still on land. As the Puerto Rican people tried to recover from the natural disaster, they joined together to bring the tree back to life. Its restoration brought hope to the islanders as they struggled to overcome the grief and loss that devastated their home. Inspired by true events in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, this story is tenderly and respectfully told. With a layer of nature-filled spirituality, the jagüey's nostalgic narration feels fablelike and otherworldly. Moreno's painterly illustrations feature a diverse community of Black, brown, and white people. The tree is lovingly depicted in a bright, emerald hue, always looming large. It seems to lean in toward the characters as they experience their day-to-day triumphs. Especially effective is the spread in which the artist presents the passage of time via sepia-colored panels that eventually shift to brightly colored images of the present day. VERDICT A powerful debut picture book about community, the determination of the Puerto Rican people, and a majestic and resilient tree. Purchase for all picture book collections.—Shelley M. Diaz

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

A powerful debut picture book about community, the determination of the Puerto Rican people, and a majestic and resilient tree. Purchase for all picture book collections. —School Library Journal, starred review

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Beaming Books
Publication date
August 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JUV029020 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Weather
JUV011030 - Juvenile Fiction | People & Places | United States - Hispanic & Latino
JUV029030 - Juvenile Fiction | Nature & the Natural World | Disasters
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Puerto Rico
Hurricane Maria, 2017
Banyan tree

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