Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Red is two hundred and sixteen rings old, not surprising for a red oak tree. Somewhat more surprising is that Red is a wish tree where, on May Day, people tie bits of cloth with their wishes onto branches and twigs. It’s a tradition that goes back to Ireland, though other places have other versions.

And Red has a story to tell about those wishes, along with plenty of what Bongo the crow calls “Wise Old Tree” philosophy. In addition to Bongo, Red is giving shelter to families of raccoons, opossums, skunks, and barn owls, who all get into the story of Samar who wished for a friend and Maeve who long ago wished for someone to love. Their story is both hilarious and deeply moving. It would be a great choice for a family to listen to or read together. Also, the trailer for Wishtree is a lovely introduction to the mood and style of Red’s narration.

Red is completely believable as the sort of person a tree could be. I was reminded of Tolkein’s ancient Ent, Treebeard, in Lord of the Rings, though Red is wholly tree. And Red has no wish to be turned into furniture, or otherwise sacrificed like Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. The animals are equally delightful characters, from Bongo who has learned to say “chip, please,” to Flash the baby opossum who is frightened to death of flashlights, to Lewis and Clark, the tree climbing kittens.

Back in 1942, Holling Clancy Holling wrote and painted Tree in the Trail about a cottonwood growing along the Santa Fe Trail and bearing in its wood the marks of generations of people passing by.  That tree, however, was strictly realistic.  

Review by Carolyn Caywood, retired from VBPL  

 

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