cover image Willodeen


Katherine Applegate. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-14740-0

Employing flawlessly simple, candid prose that belies deeper messages, Newbery Medalist Applegate again considers the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. Before Willodeen’s family died in the Great September Fire when she was just six, her father taught her to love and respect animals, especially the most unlovable. Now, Willodeen’s kind but occasionally cantankerous guardians don’t seem to mind when the 10-year-old skips school to look for screechers. The sharp-toothed, foul-smelling animals are hated—and hunted—by Perchance’s townspeople, who prefer sweet-faced, tourist-garnering hummingbears. Lately, though, both species have been disappearing. After Willodeen witnesses the killing of an elderly screecher, new friend Connor crafts one for her birthday that magically comes to life. Now, Willodeen must overcome her aversion to people to protect it while trying to solve the mystery of the animals’ disappearance. Via imaginative depictions, including interspersed chapters from the screecher’s point of view, Applegate brings an intimate cast of default-white human characters and scene-stealing mythical ones to life. Fiercely protective Willodeen is easy to champion, and her belief that “nature knows more than we do” is a message worth sharing. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. (Sept.) [/em]