7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #755: Featuring Aaron Becker

h1 August 8th, 2021 by jules

“A tree stood steel-straight and proud at the foot of the towers that filled its sky.
It grew, mostly unnoticed, silently marking the seasons.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


We will soon mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It’s hard to believe. Children’s literature will acknowledge this with more than one book (more soon here at 7-Imp about one such picture book from author-illustrator Sean Rubin, which was released in May), and today I have one from author Marcie Colleen and illustrator Aaron Becker. Survivor Tree (Little, Brown) will be on shelves this month.

As does Rubin’s book, Survivor Tree shines its light on the Callery pear tree that once stood near the Twin Towers (see spread above); was found “crushed and burned” under the rubble after the attacks (“the last living thing pulled from the rubble,” as the author puts in a closing note); was moved to the Arther Ross Nursery in the Bronx on November 11, 2001, with little hope it would survive; and was sent back to near where the Towers once stood after it finally recuperated.

Colleen’s text captures with a spare lyricism the way in which the growing tree changes, pre-9/11, in response to the seasons. One particular spread, pictured below, plays with this in an elegant yet chilling way, a briliant design choice that captures the moment before one of the planes hit the first Tower.


(Click spread to enlarge)


With reverence, Colleen communicates the grief and shock of the attacks, as seen through the effects it had on this tree, which becomes “a shattered stump” that is moved to a place with “a different sky.” Her measured pacing is perfect as we see the tree, in its new home with two stone blocks placed next to it (“a memorial of makeshift towers in a makeshift home”), quietly recover — just as many Americans attempted to do.

Becker’s watercolor and colored pencils illustrations truly extend the text with a visual story line about one particular family, whose lives were radically altered by the attacks. He also works wonders with leaves; pay close attention to them throughout the book. Given that Colleen describes the tree in autumn as blazing “red with a million hearts” (capturing the shape and color of the leaves), Becker uses this heart/leaf motif throughout the book and also communicates much emotion with this deep red hue. I love to see what Becker communicates in merely the shadows: When we see in Spring that a bird has built a nest in the tree, while healing away from the Towers, we don’t see the mama bird — but do see her shadow on the book’s verso in a spread that gracefully captures the shift from Winter to Spring.

This isn’t a text that delves into the reasons for the attack; this is not even covered in the book’s closing notes, Colleen explaining that she was teaching on September 11, 2001, and felt unable to tell her high schoolers at the time why this had occurred. She adds, however, that telling the tree’s story may serve as a springboard for conversation:

“I hope readers and their caregivers will find an entry point to a topic that is difficult to comprehend. I still do not have all the answers to the questions my students asked twenty years ago. But this book is what I can give them, and anyone seeking a more hopeful, colorful world.”

Here are some more spreads. …


“Then one day … Buds to blossoms. Blossoms to leaves. Though charred and gnarled,
the tree began to grow. And so it went for almost ten years.
White, green, red, bare. Spring, summer, fall …”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“The tree hesitated to fill the empty sky. People no longer rushed by.
Instead, they stopped and wept beside two forever-filling pools.”

(Click spread to enlarge)



THE SURVIVOR TREE. Text copyright © 2021 by Marcie Colleen. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Aaron Becker and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Little, Brown, New York.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

1) The grad course I taught this summer is done, and I actually got my grading done in time.

2) This wonderful piece this week from Margaret Renkl.

3) Last week, I drove to Knoxville to surprise a former interpreting colleague, who is retiring. It was wonderful to see former colleagues and friends I hadn’t seen in SEVENTEEN years.

4) I started Hamnet, and the writing is exquisite.

5) This is such a bop.

6) A much different version of a song I shared here months ago:



7) A party to celebrate one of my daughters’ friends going off to college. With cake.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #755: Featuring Aaron Becker”

  1. Oh, I want that book. I have a survivor tree ornament from the 9/11 Museum that hangs in my writing room. The art is exquisite.
    Jules, Glad that you are liking Hamnet. Congrats on getting class and grades completed
    My kicks:
    1. Time at home.
    2. Acceptance of five photos into the State Fair.
    3. Completion of four art/poem postcards to send of to a swap.
    4. Time with a friend.
    5. The Pickles Baseball Game…it’s collegiate league and a hoot.
    6. Finished The Uptown House. Hard to put down,
    7. Fresh peaches.
    Have a great week.

  2. Hi Imps! Oh, wow. That looks evocative and powerful. Thank you for sharing, Jules, Marcie, and Aaron.

    Congrats, teacher Jules! I’m glad the surprise went well. Best wishes to them, and to your daughter’s friends, too.

    Congrats, Jone! That’s amazing. Kudos!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) The power of no
    2) Conversations
    3) Movies
    4) Music
    5) Cheer
    6) Go
    7) Good

  3. Jone, yes, I had trouble putting down The House Uptown too, so it was a quick read for me. Congrats on the photos!

    Little Willow: High-five for knowing how to no — and protect your time.

  4. Really powerful and effective pairing of words and illustration, that one spread of Fall is truly chilling.

    Jules – congrats on finishing up your class and getting the grading finished on time! That piece from Margaret Renkl is powerful and so on point. Hooray for retirement celebrations and seeing old friends, and cake celebrations for the college-bound!

    Jone – congrats on getting 5 photos accepted! Peaches, yum. Haven’t been to a Pickles game yet, sounds like I should remedy that.

    Little Willow – love all your kicks – but most especially Kick 1 – it is a wonderful thing to be able to say No.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Busy week, workwise, up until late afternoon Friday, so happy its over with.
    2) Having colleagues who are even better friends, and who really listen, hear you, and offer support. Feeling very lucky.
    3) Took my first online beginner tap class. I’m not good, but muscle memory from dance classes years ago is slowly waking up, so I look forward to improving as I go.
    4) Sharing favorite concert stories with a friend and it brought back that same joy I felt when I was at those concerts.
    5) Time for another round of playing tennis badly in the middle of a hectic week. Always fun.
    6) Cooler weather before the next round of high temps.
    7) I read The House Uptown and loved it too! It got New Orleans right, my only 2 nits to pick are it tied things up too quickly the last 40 pages, and I really wanted more of the backstory of Lane and her lover. I’ve been imaginary casting it in my head. Marisa Tomei or Michelle Yeoh would be perfect as Lane.
    7.5) Daily walks with Daisy, and she was so happy to go to underwater treadmill Friday morning. She gets so happy to see her friends there. Love that dog.

    Have a great week imps!

  5. Rachel: Tap! Also, I like your casting ideas for The House Uptown. (And I told Jone in an email that I would have named it something else too. Not sure what, but that title does nothing for me.) Love that second kick. How lucky for you indeed, and how lovely. Hello, Daisy!

    I hope everyone enjoys their week!

  6. Jules – its interesting that you don’t like the name because it is actually a part of what the author gets right about New Orleans – however, unless you had lived in New Orleans (or had family there, or spent time there with friends who lived there), it doesn’t convey the same meaning. So the name makes perfect sense, but only to a very very small part of the book-reading population.

    Uptown is a neighborhood where all the gorgeous old mansions and almost mansions are along St Charles and the streetcar line, and beyond. The park in the novel is never named, but it is Audubon Park and the homes around the park are old and beautiful and most are passed down through families. So its a big beautiful, old family house from a family with old money, which is also part of why Lane can be so disconnected from the world – she never needed to be an artist, she had her family money to live off of. Its also part of why Oliver resents her so much, even as he loves and depends on her for work – they are firmly rooted in different class levels in the city.

    Tap! Its a bucket list item for me and I figured, why not now? Last time I took tap I was 5 years old. Long past time to get back to it.

  7. Little Willow: the power of no is awesome.
    Jules and Rachel: I agree as well about tying the ending up too quick. I wish we had more about the affair. Thanks, Rachel, for giving context to the name of the book, the class division between Oliver and Lane means even more now.
    Who would play Oliver?
    Rachel, I tried in person tap years ago. My knees were not happy. I hadn’t done it since childhood.

  8. Ah, thank you, Rachel! That make sense!

    I’m going to think about who would play Oliver. Hmm …

    The book I’m reading now (Hamnet) is written soooo exquistely that I’m whisper-reading it aloud. … If I weren’t horrible at book clubs, I’d say we should start a Sunday Kicks Club (but I AM horrible at book clubs).

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