Sometimes a Tree isn’t Just a Tree
Katherine Applegate is the master of a certain kind of quiet novel. I’ll resist comparisons to her previous Newbery winning title, though, and stick to just this book and this year. WISHTREE whispers its message of tolerance and hope
With such slight text, Applegate manages to make characters that are real, believable, flawed, and honest. Both the humans and animals have voices. The naming conventions for all the animals was clever and did a lot to give character to large numbers of animals in a very short time.
This book delivers a similar message to AMINA’S VOICE, but more gently. Where AMINA’S VOICE feels didactic and overdone, WISHTREE feels subtle and strong. Applegate has managed to turn a tree into a delightful narrator and a driver of social change. Part of what I think suceeds about this book is the small-scale of this social change. WISHTREE isn’t about a ban against Muslims, or building a wall. It is about a tree and two children from two families. It is social change that is understandable to a young audience and powerful to all.
Themes of environmentalism are also at play here, and are handled with equal care. WISHTREE, for me, is very strong on interpretation of theme or concept and is high on my list of middle grade books for this year so far. It is up there with CLAYTON BYRD SINGS THE BLUES. Would it get one of my nominations? I’m not sure, but I would definitely consider it.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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