Katherine Applegate invites you to listen to trees.
“…if you find yourself standing near a particularly friendly-looking tree on a particularly lucky-feeling day, it can’t hurt to listen up.
Trees can’t tell jokes.
But we can certainly tell stories.”
And so Red, a Wise Old Tree, invites us to listen to this story of a tree, its inhabitants, and a neighborhood that sees the worst and then finds the best in itself.
Red has watched over this neighborhood for generations as a repository for the wishes of the people who visit every Wishing Day. Bongo, a crow and Red’s best friend, provides a counterpoint to the serenity of the old tree, especially about Wishing Day:
“One more round,” Bongo said, “of greedy people bugging you with their needs.”
“One more round of hopeful people wishing for better things,” I corrected.
The stately oak has been the steady, constant source of peace, wisdom, and terrible jokes while surveying the happenings of the neighborhood and the dynamics of its inhabitants. Recently, anger and unkindness have pushed Red to the limit. But what can an optimistic tree, a pessimistic crow, and an array of woodland creatures do to bring peace back to the block?
Katherine Applegate enchants her readers with a lovely story written in her beautiful poetic prose. In the face of bigotry, the gentle oak summons selfless bravery and decides to literally speak up to help Samar and her family. Using the talents of animal allies, Nature literally finds a way to save the neighborhood. And, in doing so, the neighborhood finds a way to save Red.
Your human families will enjoy reading about the antics of the animal families that live in the Red’s branches and hollows – the skunks named for pleasant scents, the opossums named for scary things, and the raccoons all named You. They will snicker and roll their eyes together as Red tries – and fails – to tell jokes. They will rejoice as the community learns the most valuable lesson of inclusion from its beloved Wishing Tree. Applegate takes on essential human issues such as love, hate, family, and friendship with a delicate whimsy that will stimulate and inspire readers, young and old.
Student readers will be challenged to make their wishes come true by standing up for what is right and making a difference. Who knew a quiet, old, “punny” tree could teach us so much? Listen closely. Trees are great storytellers. And there is much to learn…