Best-Seller 'Alejandro Tree' Goes to Second Printing

By Steven E. ConroyCommunity Submission
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire County is apparently discovering the holiday spirit in "The Alejandro Tree." 

More than 2,000 of the books have jumped off the shelves since it was featured in The Berkshire Eagle just after Thanksgiving. A second printing of 10,000 is planned for the local best seller.

Written by Margaret Gartland, the tale is the true story of young Alejandro Caballero's desire two years ago to share a handmade paper Christmas tree with the ill and elderly Gartland, whom he had never met. It is illustrated by Alexander Bird.

"The response to the book has been nothing short of amazing," said Hillcrest Educational Centers President Gerard Burke. "People saw the article in The Eagle or heard about it on the radio and are coming into Hillcrest to purchase large quantities to give as gifts. Employers are giving the book to their staff and clients as a gift, teachers are reading it to their classes and some are writing to ask for the book to be autographed by Alejandro."

Alejandro, now 15, attends Hillcrest, which treats traumatized and developmentally disabled youths. The slim paperback has made him something of a local celebrity: When Alejandro was holiday shopping at the Book Loft in Great Barrington recently, a customer recognized him and asked for an autograph.

Courtesy Hillcrest Educational Centers
Alejandro Caballero, 15, poses with the book based on his holiday gift
The book, Alejandro and 87-year-old Gartland have been featured on local television and radio as well as print media. The book is available at 50 outlets in the Berkshires region. Proceeds benefit treatment and special education programs at Hillcrest.

County vendors are requesting more copies of the inspirational book about the boy who experienced incredible challenges and trauma from a very early age, yet still expressed kindness to an 85-year-old woman who was in the hospital during the holidays. The gift was a Christmas tree made out of handprints of all the kids at Hillcrest that Alejandro and his classmates made for a holiday party.

"We have sold out of the book three times now. Every time I replenish the stock, it sells out again," said Karen Keenan of Karen Keenan Gifts & Home on Main Street in Lee.

Kelly Wright, owner of Chapters Book Store on North Street in Pittsfield said people were buying two or three books at a time to give as gifts.

"People are telling us how moved they are by the strength and resolve of this child," she said. "Because of Alejandro's act of kindness, it helps us all focus on the reason for this season."

While the Berkshire community has responded positively to "The Alejandro Tree," the book has also provided a means for Hillcrest Educational Centers to provide support back to the community in a variety of ways, including a donation of 200 books to the Interact Youth Club of the Pittsfield Rotary. The books were given as gifts to children served by the Pittsfield Department of Children and Families during the Youth Club's annual holiday party.

Burke said Pittsfield Public Schools have also benefited from the sales.

"Because of the profound gift of Alejandro's story to Hillcrest, we wanted to make the book available to all children in Pittsfield schools," he said. "A backpack order form was sent home with each child. A portion of book sales from the schools will be donated back to each school's Parent-Teacher Organization. The same offer was extended to Berkshire South Regional Community Center. They will share in the proceeds from the sale of books at their location.

"We plan to continue and grow these partnerships where many as possible can benefit from this special story."

People have come forward with offers to help support Alejandro and Hillcrest; others have donated funds toward the second printing.

Burke said Alejandro's story is a reminder to the community about the importance of Hillcrest's work.

"We work with 150 children from the Berkshires and New England every day," he said. "Each of our kids has a traumaticlife history like Alejandro's, some not as severe as Alejandro's and, sadly, some much worse. Hillcrest's mission is to help our kids overcome and heal from their past and move forward to make a positive life for themselves and those around them."

Lois Daunais, owner of Papyri Books on Eagle Street in North Adams, reported brisk sales of "The Alejandro Tree." The store still has "plenty left" for people looking to pick up a copy for Christmas.

"It's a very thoughtful gift," she said. "Because you're supporting Hillcrest Educational Centers and giving a lovely gift at the same time."

Steven E. Conroy is director of development at Hillcrest Educational Centers.

The book is available at a wide variety of local stores, galleries, offices, gift shops and book sellers. It can also be purchased by mail at Hillcrest Educational Centers, ATTN: Alejandro Tree, P.O. Box 4699, Pittsfield, MA 01202 for $11.95 (includes postage and handling).
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