The Children’s Book Review | February 22, 2018
Written by Katherine Applegate
Hardcover: 224 pages
Age Range: 8-12
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (2017)
What to expect: Kindness, Friendship, Hope, Tolerance, Nature
Written by the award-winning author of The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate, Wishtree is an inspiring tale of kindness and tolerance told from the perspective of a wise, old red oak tree (216 rings old).
“Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories . . .”
Red is a “wishtree.” Each year, on the first day of May, people come to tie wishes onto his limbs using rags, ribbons, paper, and even “the occasional gym sock.” He is also home to many neighborhood animals, including owlets, possums, raccoons, skunks, and his best friend Bongo the Crow. Together they philosophize, while also honoring the rule of not talking to people. The newest family to reside in Red’s neighborhood are Muslim, and 10-year-old Samar visits the tree nightly and forms an unspoken bond with the tree and the animals. When Samar’s family is not accepted by fellow neighbors and a boy goes as far as etching the word “LEAVE” firmly into Red’s bark, trouble ensues. Police become involved and it is determined by the landlady, whose family owns the property where Red is rooted, that trees are troublemakers and Red must go. A battle of acceptance, friendship, and a duty to care for nature comes to pass.
Wishtree speaks right to the heart with it’s fluid storyline that engages readers and opens minds to current and ongoing prejudicial issues. Katherine Applegate is so talented at giving relatable characteristics to her non-human protagonists, and, in doing so, provides a safe place to explore moralistic values such as tolerance versus intolerance, kindness, friendship, and hope. It is an enjoyable read and the lesson of humility cannot be lost. This book is bound to be loved by nature lovers and readers who enjoy tales with a folk vibe, too.
Young Reader’s Perspective
Red thinks he has seen everything but when a new family moves in, Red is needed even more than ever before. This new family is not welcomed into the neighborhood. But all the girl, Samar, ever dreams of is a friend. But will Samar end up with a true friend when Red is threatened to be cut down?
READ IT! Wishtree is an excellent novel. This is a story of friendship and kindness. I love how interested Red was and how much perseverance he had in helping Samar find a friend. I think Wishtree by Katherine Applegate is definitely on my top favorite book list.
- Traditions are a great way to create memories and build connections within families and communities. How does the wishing tree in this book help connect the people and animals in the neighborhood? Do you have any personal or family traditions that you participate in? If not, what kind of tradition could you create to help form meaningful friendships?
- The characters in the book come to realize that there is a place for everyone, regardless of who you are or where you come from. Parents might use this opportunity to discuss the importance of community and inclusivity.
- When the boy etches the word “LEAVE” firmly into Red’s bark, readers learn how powerful a simple word can be and the effect that it can have on people. Parents could help children create a list of words that could be used to help people feel wanted and included. Example: Welcome.
- Themes of nature and science are weaved throughout the story. Readers could research the Quercus rubra (the red oak tree) and also talk about conservation. Take a nature walk. Draw pictures of the tree or make leaf prints.
About the Author
Katherine Applegate is the author of The One and Only Ivan, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novel Crenshaw, spent over twenty weeks on the New York Timeschildren’s bestseller list, and her first middle-grade stand-alone novel, Home of the Brave continues to be included on state reading lists, summer reading lists, and class reading lists. Katherine Applegate lives in Tiburon, California, with her family.
Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate, was read and reviewed by Bianca Schulze and Maya Schulze (age 12) for a mother-daughter book discussion. Discover more books like Wishtree by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Acceptance, Friendship, Hope, Katherine Applegate, Mother-Daughter Book Discussion, Racism, and Trees.