Katherine Applegate, Author
Feiwel & Friends, Fiction, Sep. 26, 2017
Suitable for Ages: 8-12
Themes: Trees, Wishes, Crows, Animals, Friendship, Tolerance
Opening: It’s hard to talk to trees. We’re not big on chitchat. That’s not to say we can’t do amazing things, things you’ll probably never do. Cradle downy owlets. Steady flimsy tree forts. Photosynthesize. But talk to people? Not so much.
Red is an oak tree who is 216 rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree.” Every May 1 people come from all over town to write their most private wishes on pieces of paper, cloth, and socks and tie them to Red’s branches. He holds their hopes and dreams in his limbs. Then, they whisper their wish. Red listens but never responds. It’s against the rules for a tree to speak to a human.
Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood. Red has seen a lot of change over 200 years.
When a Muslim family moves in, Red observes how Samar and her family are treated by neighbors. Not everyone is welcoming. Nasty threats are carved on his trunk, eggs are thrown, and ugly words shouted from passing cars. More than ever, Red wants to fulfill Samar’s wish to find a friend. When Red learns the property owner may have some plans for him, he breaks some rules and ask his friends for help.
Why I like this book:
Katherine Applegate’s heartwarming middle grade novel is magical and conveys a message that is relevant today. It also reminds us of our common humanity.
The story is narrated by Red, a red oak tree, with compassion, concern, wisdom, and a sense of humor; no easy task for an author. Red’s branches and hollows are home to a birds and a furry cast of comical characters (owls, raccoons, opossums, skunks, cats and a crow) who live to together in harmony — most of the time. Red and his residents communicate openly with each other, but not with humans. Once a year Red is a wishtree for the town. Red’s world is vibrant and harbors a secret that needs to be shared.
Wishtree is a quiet and thoughtful read aloud with the entire family or in the classroom. It has a strong plot that with themes the encourage readers think about diversity, inclusion, acceptance, kindness and the true nature of friendship. It is a delightful mix that will keep readers turning pages. The story has Common Core connections.
For the next few months Greg Pattridge will be hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Thank you Greg for keeping MMGM active while author Shannon Messenger is on tour promoting her sixth book, Nightfall, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which was released November 7.