The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree
The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree

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Annotation: Recipient of a Batchelder Honor Ten-year-old Mafalda hides the fact that she is going blind from her family and friends ... more
Catalog Number: #209861
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Atheneum
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 224
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: Publisher: 1-534-43962-5 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-7613-1
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-534-43962-7 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-7613-4
Dewey: Fic
Language: English
ALA Booklist
Ten-year-old Mafalda has Stargardt disease, a rare genetic disorder resulting in the gradual loss of vision and eventual blindness. Unbeknownst to the people around Mafalda, it's progressing quicker than expected, and she's rapidly trying to check items off her list of things she loves that she won't be able to do anymore once the dark sets in. Mafalda's life and the people around her are changing, but she has a plan of her own; to live in the cherry tree in front of her school like her favorite book character. Peretti, who was diagnosed with the same illness as a teenager, provides a tunnel of light for readers to reach for. Due perhaps in part to the translation and to writing reflectively, the voice sometimes quivers between young and much older, but it contains revelatory foresight. Peripheral characters like a loyal cat offset the heaviness of the story, which is accented by beautiful yet somber grayscale illustrations.
Kirkus Reviews
As she struggles with vision loss, Mafalda takes stock of her gains in this Italian import and debut.Without her glasses, fifth grader Mafalda sees the world as a mist, a complication of her Stargardt disease, a rare form of macular degeneration. Because the mist will eventually turn into darkness, she keeps a list of "Things I care a lot about (but I won't be able to do anymore)." In lyrical prose ably translated by Muir, Peretti, who also has Stargardt disease, takes readers through Mafalda's school year as the preteen tracks the progression of her disease by crossing off the activities she can no longer perform and the decreasing number of steps it takes to reach the schoolyard cherry tree from when she can first see it. Many chapters end with a pleading to Cosimo, the protagonist of Italo Calvino's The Baron in the Trees, for help. Young readers unfamiliar with this work will still understand Mafalda's prayerlike requests to this spirited boy who chose to live among the trees and her own decision to live in the cherry tree. The sorrow of imminent darkness is tempered, however, by the girl's friendships with the school custodian, a Romanian immigrant, and schoolmate Filippo, who lives with his single mother. Both experience their own losses and help Mafalda realize that life goes on with unexpected joys. A minor character is Indian; others are assumed to be white Europeans.A quiet, philosophical story for thoughtful readers. (Fiction. 8-12)
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
ALA Booklist (7/1/19)
Kirkus Reviews
Word Count: 40,075
Reading Level: 4.5
Interest Level: 3-6
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.5 / points: 6.0 / quiz: 504746 / grade: Middle Grades
Lexile: 740L
The Distance between Me and the Cherry Tree


The Dark

All children are scared of the dark.

The dark is a room with no door and no windows, where monsters grab you and eat you without making a sound.

I'm not afraid of the dark, though.

But I have something else to worry about. I have my very own dark, the one in my eyes.

I'm not making it up. If I were, Mom wouldn't buy me pastries shaped like peaches filled with cream and she wouldn't let me eat them before dinner. If everything were okay, Dad wouldn't hide in the bathroom when the landlady phones, because it's always bad news when she calls.

"Don't worry," Mom says when she does the dishes after dinner. "Go and play in your room and don't worry about a thing."

I hesitate in the kitchen doorway, trying with the power of my mind to make her turn round, but it never works. So here I am in my room, cuddling Ottimo Turcaret, my brown-and-gray cat with a kink at the end of his tail. He doesn't mind being lifted, rolled over on the carpet, or chased with the toilet brush. He's a cat, Dad says, and cats are opportunists. I suppose that means they like attention. For me, it's enough that he's around when things are going wrong and I need something warm and cuddly to hug. Like now.

I know something's wrong. I might only be in fifth grade, but I notice everything. My cousin's girlfriend says I have a third eye. She's Indian, and I like that she thinks I have an extra eye, although it would be better if the two eyes I already have actually worked.

Sometimes I feel like crying, like now. My glasses steam up when I'm about to cry. I take them off, so at least they can dry and the red mark on my nose will go away. I've worn glasses since I started elementary school. I got these yellow ones with sparkly bits in December last year, and I love them. I put them back on in front of the mirror. Without my glasses, everything's a bit misty, like when I have a very hot shower with boiling hot water. My mist is called Stargardt mist, or so Mom and Dad told me. They must've heard about it at the hospital. It says on Dad's phone that Mr. Stargardt was a German ophthalmologist who lived a hundred years ago; he worked out what's going on with my eyes. He also discovered that people who have the same mist as me see black spots in front of things or people, and that these spots get bigger and bigger, until they're huge, and people with the spots have to get closer to things to see them properly. The Internet says, "The disease affects one in ten thousand people." Mom says that special people are chosen by God, but when I think about it, I don't feel that lucky.

Excerpted from The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Recipient of a Batchelder Honor

Ten-year-old Mafalda hides the fact that she is going blind from her family and friends in this lyrical, bittersweet debut novel from Italian author Paola Peretti that shows you how to overcome the darkness—even when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There are a lot of things ten-year-old Mafalda cares a lot about. Like, counting the stars in the night sky, playing soccer, and climbing the cherry tree outside her school. Mafalda even goes so far as to keep a list of all these things, because soon she won’t be able to do them anymore—because she’s going blind.

Even with her bad eyesight Mafalda can see that people are already treating her differently—and that’s the last thing she wants. So, she hides the fact that her vision is deteriorating faster than anyone predicted, and she makes a plan: When the time is right, she’ll go live in the cherry tree, just like her favorite book character.

But as Mafalda loses her sight, surprising things come in to focus. With the help of her family and friends both old and new, Mafalda discovers the things that matter most.

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