Tree. Table. Book. by Lois Lowry

Newbery author Lois Lowry poignantly depicts a cross-generational friendship in Tree. Table. Book.

Tree. Table. Book. by Lois Lowry. Clarion (HarperCollins), 2024, 194 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 8-10

Recommended for: ages 8-14

Sophia Henry Winslow knows she doesn’t fit in with the rest of her class, as the things she likes aren’t cool. She thought glasses with plaid frames would be cool—nah. And that kick she was on about serving junk food at school didn’t endear her to anyone. Plus braces, and minus cell phone, equals classic dork. Her neighbor, classmate, and fellow dork Ralphie also doesn’t have a phone, so they’re sort of best friends. But Sophie’s best best friend is her next-door neighbor Sophie Dershowitz, who happens to be 88 years old.

The two Sophies like and loathe a lot of the same things (there’s a list of both), laugh at the same things, and play cards together. One difference: Sophie G loves her son Aaron and Sophie W is suspicious of the same, especially since overhearing her parents talking about Aaron’s last visit, and how he’s concerned about “the same thing” and how he just might be taking his mother to a very nice facility far away. “The same thing” appears to be the old lady’s memory, which Sophie W realizes is getting a little shaky. But not that bad, surely. If the younger Sophie can prove through testing that the older one is still okay enough to remain next door, she can keep her best friend. So she embarks on memory testing, and in the process uncovers memories that Sophie G has kept secret for decades.

Since we learn early on that Sophie Gershowitz grew up in Poland in the 1930s, we can guess what those secrets include. The revelations are so subtle that younger readers may not understand the context, but the emotional impact is all the greater for that. And it grows the more the reader thinks about it. Early on, narrator Sophie mentions the novel Sophie’s Choice (which she hasn’t read, as it’s very much for grownups). The “choice” in the novel is similar to the one Sophie G’s mother had to make, with terrible consequences for them. But a beautiful outcome for the one who made it to America and became an 11-year-old girl’s best friend. Brilliantly understated, Tree. Table. Book shows how love overcomes tragedy and beauty outshines woe.

Consideration:

  • Sophie G. shares a memory on page 89 of how she was married in a slinky black cocktail dress with “boobies practically falling out of it.” It’s a joke, of the kind I’ve heard from old ladies like my grandma, but be aware if you don’t want your 5th-grader giggling about boobies.

Also at Redeemed Reader:

  • Reviews: Number the Stars is Lowry’s classic (Newbery-winning) Holocaust story. She shared her own memories of World War II in On the Horizon, a verse memoir.
  • Reviews: More books about cross-generational relationships—in The Runaways, a boy helps his crotchety grandfather escape the nursing home for one grand day of memories.  Sports fans will appreciate The Turnover.

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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