cover image The Secret Tree

The Secret Tree

Natalie Standiford. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-545-33479-2

Filled with summertime warmth and a neighborhood full of characters that readers will wish lived next door, Standiford’s (Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters) story delights and satisfies. The summer before middle school, Minty and her best friend, Paz, plan to master some roller derby moves, annoy their older sisters, and stay away from the bothersome Mean Boys down the street. But then Minty discovers a secret in the nearby woods—a tree where her neighbors leave anonymous, heartfelt, and sometimes heart-wrenching secrets (“Im so stoopid. Im affraid something is rong with my brane,” reads one). Then Minty meets enigmatic Raymond, who has a connection to the “Witch Lady” who lives on the other side of the woods. Raymond knows about the mysterious tree, too, and he enlists Minty’s help to figure out who the tree’s secrets belong to. The intimate neighborhood setting—with its mysteries, superstitions, and traditions—the authenticity of Minty’s voice, and her worries about the transitioning nature of her life and friendships give Standiford’s story a richness that will stay with readers. Ages 9–12. Agent: Sarah Burnes, the Gernert Company. (May)