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Wishtree
2017
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Author Notes
Katherine Applegate was born in Michigan on July 19, 1956. She writes science fiction, young adult romances, and pop-up books. She is the author of the Making Waves, Making Out, and Roscoe Riley Rules series. She writes the Animorphs, Everworld, and Remnants series under the pen name K. A. Applegate. She also writes under the pen names of C. Archer, Catherine Kendall and Elizabeth Benning. She has received numerous awards including a Golden Duck Award (Eleanor Cameron Award for Middle Grades) for The Message in 1997, the SCBWI 2008 Golden Kite Award for Best Fiction and the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award for Home of the Brave, and the 2013 Newbery Medal and the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award (Illinois) for The One and Only Ivan. <p> (Bowker Author Biography)
Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Red (Female), Oak tree; people write their wishes and tie them to her branches; watches over the neighborhood; has a crow as a friend; a new family moves to the area
Genre
Fiction
Juvenile
Topics
Trees
Kindness
Community life
Wishes
Human values
Nature
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

LEAVE IT TO a children's books writer to produce the most moving commentary I've read on the anti-immigration movement - without mentioning bans or walls or presidents. What's more, this is a tale told by ... a tree. Never mind the kids. Katherine Applegate's "Wishtree" is a beautifully written, morally bracing story that will leave its imprint on a reader of any age. About that tree: Red is a city tree, a tall, largehearted, middle-aged (at 216 rings) red oak. She's also a "wishtree," one of an honorable tribe that hosts a centuries-old tradition found all over the world. On the first of May, her limbs are tied with rags, tags, even "the occasional gym sock," with wishes scribbled on them. She has lots of opinions and a tendency, when her best friend Bongo the Crow is hanging about, to philosophize. Bongo, a self-described pessimist with a fine ear for the nuances of human language, resents being grouped in a "murder" of crows, while a bunch of hummingbirds is called a "charm." She's full of hollows, at her age, which start as wounds, but slowly heal, offering protection to creatures. They are "proof that something bad can become something good with enough time and care and hope." Hers are home to owlets, possums, raccoons and skunks. They chatter with one another, but nature, we learn, has one rule: Do not talk to people. Applegate has a quirky imagination and a deft touch. She has created believable nonhuman characters before, most memorably in "The One and Only Ivan," her Newbery Medal-winning novel narrated by an artistic animal who spends 27 years in captivity in a shopping mall. (That book opens winningly with the lines, "Hello. I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It's not as easy as it looks.") Red, for her part, has a sly wit, aware that a human might be hugging her one minute, and the next, sending her to become tongue depressors. Living in a neighborhood that has seen Italian, Chinese, Spanish and Nigerian families come and go, Red now throws her shade over the home of a Muslim family that includes a shy, gentle 10-year-old girl, Samar, who sneaks into her yard every night to visit Red and is soon accepted by the tree creatures. Bongo gives Samar gifts from her hoard of trinkets. But something has changed: Samar's family is not welcomed by the neighborhood. Angry men yell out insults as they drive by. They throw eggs at the house. And one horrible morning, a boy attacks her bark with a screwdriver. Red can tell "from the determined way he moved that it was meant to hurt." What he writes is aimed at the hearts of the Muslim family: LEAVE. The threatening tattoo draws reporters and the police, as well as the attention of the landlady whose family has owned the property for generations. Trees are troublemakers, she decides. Their roots buckle sidewalks. Heaps of leaves fall into gutters. And now, political graffiti. The landlady decides it is Red who must leave, and hires men bearing chain saws. Red ponders her fate philosophically, deciding she has a few important tasks to accomplish before she is cut down - and that's when the magic of this tale unfurls. Red's impulses, to engage, to teach, to heal, to connect - to talk! - are all too human. She sets about to do what we would all hope the better angels of our natures would have us do. In that, Applegate's novel becomes a parable - not unlike a certain classic novel in which a tiny spider, protecting a sweet, smart, runt of a pig, taught us the power of friendship. Even if you are old enough to be a grandmother, you can almost believe Red's story is real. Middle-grade readers will no doubt be charmed by the way creatures talk, and they might be challenged to puzzle out some things, like who speaks Yoruba. They'll learn just enough science (to say nothing of current events) to be satisfied that this story is grounded in a familiar world. The book's message - and the grace Applegate locates in children's hearts - will not escape anyone. Generation after generation, Americans eventually embrace the latest arrivals, and get stronger for it. The best teachers are often the most unexpected. I finished this book and conjured the image of "Wishtree" read-ins, with children and mayors and senators - maybe even a president with a son who's in the book's target age range - nestled under the beneficent shade of their own Reds, learning that this country has always been shaped by newcomers who stay.

  Publishers Weekly Review

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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

  Horn Book Review

Applegates contemplative novel on the theme of tradition and the necessity for change is narrated by Red, a 216-year-old oak tree that serves as a communitys wishtree. Every year on the first day of May, people come from all over town to adorn me with scraps of paper, bits of fabric, snippets of yarn, and the occasional gym sock. Each offering represents a dream, a desire, a longing. When an ugly act of Islamophobia (and vandalism of Red) threatens the neighborhood idyll, Red, along with crow buddy Bongo, rallies support--both animal and human--for newcomer Samars family. Kind Samar, in turn, helps Red, whos facing the hatchet. Interspersed chapters provide the backstory of a nineteenth-century foundling and give historical resonance to the theme of community prejudice and acceptance. Its a stretch to have a protagonist with no actual voice or physical action, but Applegate pulls it off with good-natured aplomb. Intriguing botanical facts are dotted throughout the story (Red is monoecious, having both male and female flowers); how various species name themselves is a resilient running joke. Bongos touch of cynicism balances the wise elders tendency toward pontificating, and Applegate boldly does an end-run around the fact that Red doesnt speak to humans. Short chapters and a clear, unadorned writing style invite reading aloud. sarah ellis (c) Copyright 2017. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Summary
<p> The New York Times- bestselling story of kindness, friendship, and hope. <br> <br> 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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times -bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best--writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.</p> <p>This book has Common Core connections.</p>
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