Sunday, April 7, 2019

Middle Grade Monday: Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate

Another beautiful blue cover!

Title: Wishtree
Author: Katherine Applegate
Publication Info: Feiwel And Friends, 2017. 254 pages (hardback)
Source: Library digital resources

Publisher’s Blurb:
Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

My Review: 
Wishtree was the selection for the March book of the month for the Great Middle Grade Reads group on Goodreads. I was a little hesitant as I started it, both because a few people who’d gotten an earlier start on it didn’t entirely like it, and because of the timing. It’s a book that deals, in part, with anti-Muslim hatred—and I started it just before the Friday attacks on the mosques in Christchurch (where we are spending February and March). I wasn’t sure I wanted to read about more hatred.

I should have known better. Katherine Applegate addresses some tough issues in her books (see, for example, The One and Only Ivan), but she does it in ways that lead the reader to hope and understanding, not sorrow and frustration. A rather whimsical tale of love and community, the book might be described as magical realism—the situation is all too real, but the sentient tree who narrates it provides a unique perspective.

While some readers disliked the use of a patently unrealistic element (talking tree) in an otherwise realistic story, I found that it was easy to engage Wordsworth’s “willing suspension of disbelief” and accept the insider-outsider perspective the tree provides, and I think children will generally be happy with it as well.

Applegate’s writing is smooth and easy to read, without talking down to the children. There are some good giggles provided by the critters that inhabit Red (the tree), which will appeal to readers of all ages.

My Recommendation:

I think this is a good book for a gentle introduction to the issues, as well as being an enjoyable story with a generally happy ending. It’s suitable for kids perhaps as young as 7, as the writing is simple and straight-forward without being simplistic (thus maintaining the appeal for older children).

Full Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Wishtree from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."   

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