The Magic Orange Tree

by Vicky on October 10, 2010

Cric?  Crac!  This week I told Diane Wolkstein’s story, “The Magic Orange Tree,” in our Page Presents class.  It’s the story of a little girl whose stepmother abuses her.  The girl often goes hungry, so one day, when her stepmother is out, she cannot resist eating three oranges that are sitting on the table.  Oh, how she savors them!  But when the stepmother returns and sees that the oranges are missing, she cries, “Whoever has eaten my oranges had better start saying her prayers now, because she will not be able to later!”

Badly frightened, the little girl runs to the place where her mother is buried and weeps until she is worn out.  When she gets up with the sun, something falls from her skirt onto the grave.  It is an orange pip!  As soon as the tiny seed hits the ground, it begins to grow.  Delighted, the child begins to sing:

Orange tree,
Grow and grow and grow,
Orange tree,
Grow and grow and grow!
Stepmother is not real mother,
Orange tree.

As the tree grows taller and taller, her song changes to “Branch and branch and branch,” “Flower and flower and flower,” and “Ripen and ripen and ripen.”  When the plump oranges appear, she is so excited that she dances around the tree singing “Grow and grow and grow,” and the tree responds by growing up into the clouds!  But the resourceful child just changes her song to “Lower and lower and lower,” and the tree obligingly returns to a normal size.

When her stepmother sees the oranges, she grabs the girl and insists that she show her the tree.  Then she leaps into the tree and begins picking all the oranges, but the girl sings “Grow and grow and grow,” sending the tree and her stepmother up into the clouds.  Then she cries, “Break, orange tree!  And the tree (and the stepmother) break into little pieces.  The little girl searches among the pieces until she finds an orange pip, and soon a new magic orange tree begins to grow and grow and grow.

I sing the song with a syncopated calypso feel, so Matt taught the kids a clave rhythm:

They practiced clapping the rhythm, and then they learned how to add shakers to the basic rhythm.  Then we taught them the “grow and grow and grow” part of the song, and they all chimed in during the story.

After the story, everyone made a magical orange tree.  I overheard one little girl lamenting to her mother that her tree did not have a handle.  Her mother told her it was because their paper bag came without a handle.  I told her, “I can make a handle for you,”  and I got a hole punch and some ribbon and voila! her tree had a handle!  She was so happy with the handle on her tree that she kept walking around holding it up and peeking out through the handle, which made me realize that the trees were actually bodi-puppets.  Silly me, for not seeing her as she really was: a Magic Orange Tree!

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