The distance between me and the cherry tree by Paola Peretti

cover image

Hot Key Books, 2018. ISBN 9781471407550
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Macular Degeneration, Blindness, Family, Friendship. This poignant tale has Mafalda charting her loss of sight as her eyes deteriorate. She begins with her beloved cherry tree, counting the steps as she comes to school, noting how close she needs to be before she can really see it. She loves this tree and often climbs into its comforting branches. One day her glasses fall and she cannot see her way down, but the new caretaker, Estelle, retrieves her glasses and helps her come back down. After that Estelle waits for her every day.
Juvenile Macular Degeneration leads to blindness as the macular develops spots which impairs vision. Initially told she may have some time before the black spots cover most of her sight, she is told that it is imminent. She resolves to go and live in the tree where she feels close to her late Grandmother and Cosimo, a character from one of her father's favourite novels, to whom she speaks, using him as a sounding board for her ideas.
But she is beset by problems. Her parents want to move closer to the school, into an apartment with no stairs, but in doing she will lose the one thing that Mafalda loves, the view from her window to her Grandmother's old house across the way.
And Fillipi, a boy in her school wants to be friends, but she cannot work him out. Mafalda pens a list of things she deems important, and along the way learns to cross out the ones she finds less so, making sure that her list is up to date. When she has had enough she retreats to her tree, determined to live there with her cat, safe in the arms of her gran and Cosimo, but Estelle's voice helps her realise what is important, helping her out of the tree and to her new life.
A most unusual book about losing your sight Mafalda is an engaging character, full of grit and determination, learning that family and friends are the best things to have around
Fran Knight