The simplicity of Newbery Medalist Applegate’s graceful novel contrasts powerfully with the prejudice it confronts. Narration comes from Red, an enormous red oak near an elementary school that also serves as a “wishtree” for the neighborhood—once a year, residents deposit wishes in Red’s branches and hollows. Though trees aren’t supposed to talk to humans, Red cares for them deeply, especially when a lonely girl named Samar and her Muslim family move into the neighborhood and receive a chilly, then hostile, reception: a boy carves “Leave” into Red’s trunk, and the family endures taunts and other abuses. “I love people dearly,” Red muses. “And yet. Two hundred and sixteen rings, and I still haven’t figured them out.” Applegate creates strong parallel between these threats and those that Red faces, as neighborhood matriarch Francesca contemplates cutting the tree down. As tension escalates in both the natural and human realms, Red’s openhearted voice and generosity of spirit bring perspective gained over centuries of observation. It’s a distinctive call for kindness, delivered by an unforgettable narrator. Art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Author’s agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Associates. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/10/2017 Release date: 09/26/2017 Genre: Children's
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.