“The Water Tree Way” Is The Book You Didn’t Know You Needed To Read

Jun 13, 2022

Rarely is a book so perfect for a child as well as an adult. “The Water Tree Way” is a cross-generational story about a young girl who embarks on a fantastical journey of perseverance and hope.

Amid the uncertainty of the global pandemic, a book called The Water Tree Way was published, and with it came a dare-to-dream mentality that would begin changing lives all over the world. Written by award-winning film composer and producer, Ruth Mendelson, with a foreword and endorsement from Dr. Jane Goodall, “The Water Tree Way” is inspiring children of all ages and cultures to persevere through any challenge that comes their way.

The main character, Jai, is a 10-year-old girl who is spunky, steadfast, and exceptionally brave. As a young girl, Jai loses her mother, who now visits her only in her dreams, guiding her and giving her the strength. After making daily treks to the Water Tree forest, she finally is granted a magical water tree leaf and the opportunity to enter a world of natural and supernatural creatures for the adventure of a lifetime. Throughout the book she perseveres against all odds to rise above her childhood adversity. Jai’s journey connects her with characters that help her learn some of life’s most profound lessons with a fresh perspective, quick wit, and charming humor.

Lee Wicks of the Montague Reporter said in her review, “it’s sophisticated enough to satisfy anyone who loves the story of a quest, and its page-turning plot appeals to everyone’s inner child.” The book invites all to see this magical journey through their own lens and apply it to their daily lives in the most magnificent way. And children of all ages are doing just that throughout the world, looking inside their own selves for the courage to face immense adversity, and The Water Tree Way is at the helm. Not only is the book inspiring young girls in the US, but it’s gone global and into the hands of girls who have taken this inspirational tale to heart.

Giving Hope To Girls In Afghanistan

In the summer of 2021 the Taliban took control of Afghanistan and banned girls 7th grade and older from going to school. But Nazaneen, a teacher at the Zabuli Education Center, an all-girls’ K-12 school in Deh’Subz, Afghanistan, has been determined to keep her students inspired. Mendelson, along with her friend, award-winning documentary filmmaker, Beth Murphy of Principle Pictures, conspired together to get the book overseas to Nazaneen. These women knew that the book would help keep inspiration and hope alive for these young girls. In late April of 2022, Murphy herself traveled to Afghanistan to document how the K-6 grade school is continuing to thrive in the face of adversity. She found that The Water Tree Way has helped them forge a path forward as the girls identify with Jai’s struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Providing Inspiration For Youth In The Congo

“This book is un-compared. It’s a call to action, at the same time works as psychosocial support. Jai reminds me of my life. When I met with Sister Mary, that was my long dream that changed everything within me… That is everyone’s destiny, we have to think and focus no matter what happens to live our dreams. I’m imagining this book is for mostly war children. Is for every family in refugee communities. Is for all the world. It speaks directly to my life.” These are the words of Faridah Luanda.

Luanda is just 22 years old, but has had to overcome an overwhelming amount of adversity starting from a very young age. At the age of 10 Luanda’s mom was killed, caught up in an ambush in the Congo. Her father was absent and she was forced to be a child bride at just 13 years old, birthing her first child at 15 years of age. Luanda began secretly visiting a church where a nun, Sister Mary, taught her English and gave her a sense of hope. When her village was attacked in 2016 and her husband killed, she fled with her son to a refugee settlement in Uganda. At the settlement she was miraculously reunited with her brother and together they developed a youth group, recording studio, and skills training organization all with the purpose of helping to raise awareness to challenges in their community and thwart the practice of selling girls into child marriages.

In 2019 the United Nations appointed Faridah Luanda to its Global Youth Advisory Council as the refugee representative for Uganda. In addition to her time documenting Nazaneen and her students at the Zabuli education center, Beth Murphy would also visit Luanda in 2021 to document her story for UNICEF-she introduced “The Water Tree Way” to her on one of her visits to the settlement. Luanda loved it. She immediately identified with Jai losing her mother and still persevering to make a better life for herself. She has made a request for The Water Tree Way to be translated into Swahili in order to utilize it in her endeavors at the Chaka Refugee Camp in Uganda.

Helping Heal After The Pandemic

The Water Tree Way came onto the scene right in the thick of the COVID 19 pandemic. Little did Mendelson know just how much her wondrous tale of determination and tenacity would mirror the lives of so many at the time. The book has been embraced by all ages, from a classroom of 7-year-olds, to a senior living facility, where they read the book together. Mendelson’s ultimate goal is for “The Water Tree Way” to promote a movement of cross-generational healing and connection through story. Mendelson expresses that, “The book is for the child within us. To learn the lessons of where we are at.”

With all that’s going on in the world today, it’s amazing to see how one book can touch people of all ages across the world and be utilized in so many different ways. In the book one of the lessons Jai learns is, “Love will always come to restore and renew, no matter what. It is a fact of the universe.”

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