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    Paola Peretti

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The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree

Author: Paola Peretti

With her parents awkwardly avoiding talking about her affliction, Mafalda has few comforts. First among them are stories, especially the one about Cosimo, the young baron who went to live in the trees forever. Naturally, there’s her cat, Ottimo Turcaret, who’s always there for her to cuddle. Then there’s the school cherry tree, her friend, her home away from home. In her mind it’s also home to both Cosimo and the spirit of her beloved grandmother, who recently passed away.

Mafalda has been climbing the tree for years. One day, in first grade, she was climbing the branches but her glasses fell off and she found herself as trapped as Ottimo Turcaret had been when she’d found him there. Fortunately Estella, the school’s new custodian, came to encourage her with a story of the Amazons, women so strong and brave they cut off a piece of their breast to carry their spear. Mafalda could only then admit the truth: she didn’t want to come down because she was afraid of going blind; there were so many things she wouldn’t be able to do anymore. Estella suggests she make a list of them. She had written a similar list herself and would show it to the girl if she came down from the tree. That was the start of a close friendship and a list entitled Things that are really, really important to me (but won’t be able to do anymore).

Now, every morning, Mafalda reaches the school entrance by following the sound of Estella’s whistles, stopping by to greet the cherry tree on her way. She decides to count her footsteps between where she first sees the tree in the distance and where she finally reaches its trunk. Her first count is a hundred and forty steps: seventy meters. But every week the distance grows shorter and shorter. Soon her world will be dark.

Ultimately, the tree will teach Mafalda what’s truly essential to her: to never ever give up, even though sometimes not giving up means let- ting go. And so she does. But instead of falling she flies.

Publisher: Rizzoli
Publish Date: 2018



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Author
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Teaches immigrant children to read and write Italian in the province of Verona. She is afflicted by a rare, degenerative eye disease.
Books of Paola Peretti