Thoughts On “My Sweet Orange Tree”

Zeze is a clever five year old boy from a poor family with many mouths to feed. His poverty is only a tiny aspect of his life, in fact, he has a huge world of his own. He goes to his sweet orange tree for comfort and quality conversation, the tiny chicken coop in his backyard is a wonderful zoo full of exotic beasts, he battles with his demons everyday to keep out of mischief but they always seem to win…

This book is based on the childhood of the author, Vasconcelos, who says that he had been carrying this book in his heart for more than twenty years until he finally wrote it out. And I love how straightforward it is. He does not try to act humble – he tells you what happened and how he felt without sugar-coating anything. For example, people always praise Zeze’s intelligence and creativity. It does not feel like Vasconcelos is bragging, he’s just telling the reader that these things happened. He is not ashamed of his past either (there really is no reason he should be), terrible things happen to him, many times because of his family, but he doesn’t try to hide any of it. I think this is how I could identify with Zeze so much. Let me elaborate.

A lot of books have made me very sad but few of them have moved me to tears. This book though, it left me sobbing. It broke my heart. I loved the characters with all my heart, and there was something about the story that let me put myself exactly into Zeze’s place. I was the little five year old boy who told stories to his little sweet orange tree and got into all sorts of trouble. I loved my best friend Portuga with all my heart. I was ecstatic when I was praised for my good grades. When I finished this book, I felt like I was the loneliest person in the world and had lost everything.

I am confused about how I should classify this book. Is it a children’s book, as everyone living in my country seems to think it is? I am not so sure. It is a children’s book as much as “To Kill A Mockingbird” is a children’s book. That is to say, yes, narrator is a child, and yes, the themes are lighthearted at times, but it has too much sadness. Needless to say, it is beautifully tragic. It will show you the joys of childhood and leave you feeling hopeless, and you will understand what people mean when they say that some broken things can never be fixed.

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