Author: Katherine Applegate
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s literature
First Publication: 2017
Major Characters: Red, Samar, Bongo
Theme: Intolerance Versus Diversity, Children’s Bravery and Wisdom Versus That of Adults
Narrator: First Person from Red’s point of view
Book Summary: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
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.
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.
Book Review: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
A giant wishtree named Red guides us through this sweet story. Every year in May, people come from all over to whisper and tie their wishes, hopes, and dreams to Red’s limbs. Little rags, ribbons, and slips of paper cover Red’s trunk and branches with wishes of all kinds. From sad to silly! This beautiful, kind hearted, optimistic, “buttinsky” of a wishtree has lived in the neighborhood for a long time. 216 tree rings worth of time and wishes! But this year could be Red’s last! So Red along with a few furry friends set out to make sure one little girl’s wish comes true.
“Different languages, different food, different customs. That’s our neighborhood: wild and tangled and colorful. Like the best kind of garden.”
The tree watches the lives of those around it, animals and humans. We meet many of the animals. The story really revolves around Samar, a Muslim girl who moves into this neighborhood. Now this neighborhood is a collection of many different types of people and races and skins. It has been very opening but for reasons of the political mood of the country, the Muslims aren’t popular in this place. Someone carves the word ‘LEAVE’ into the tree and the family feels a little nervous and afraid.
“Making others feel safe is a fine way to spend your days.”
Samar makes a wish on this special wishing tree that she wants a friend. She is very lonely. So the tree who normally just holds the wishes begins to make plans using the animals to get Samar to interact with other people.
With Red, Katherine Applegate introduces another quiet, resilient protagonist in her book Wishtree who, like the caged gorilla in The One and Only Ivan, speaks movingly to a noisy, belligerent world. I loved them all! And every single one of their plans! I’m not going to say much more in fear of spoiling your reading experience. It caught me completely off guard. Just go meet Red, Bongo, the hiccuping opossum and more. You’ll find suspense, trouble, wisdom, sadness, pride, friendship, and life with all its ups and downs in the pages of this book. A book filled with beautiful language and delicate illustrations.
“Days have a way of slipping past like raindrops in a river.”
I love that our protagonist is a tree and we see the world through the eyes of this still giant. I loved Katherine’s descriptions of leaves and branches moving in the wind and the interplay of animals. Trees, our planets memories. They are also the planets lungs. They help to cool us down and bring beauty to us.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate really is a fantastic story. It’s heartwarming and the writing is wonderful. She captures what it would be like to be a tree. The beginning starts a little slow but it works up to a fantastic ending. It’s a nice short and sweet read for middle grades and above.