Katherine Applegate: Wishtree (Feiwel and Friends Book 2017)

Many thanks to Maxim Könyvkiadó for sending me the book!

Katherine Applegate has always loved telling stories. But the journey she took until she became a writer was not easy. She didn’t like to read as a child, she found the books boring. But this was only the case until she found the Right Book: this was the Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. Although she wrote her first own story as a child, she only published her first book in her 30s. Her first really great success was The One and Only Ivan, with which she won the Newbery Medal in 2013 and later several other awards. Her books are special because their narrators are nonhumans: animals or, in the case of the Wishtree, a tree.

Red, a 216-year-old northern red oak tree. It stands on a small street, not far from the primary school, in the common courtyard of two houses that families tend to rent out for longer or shorter periods of time. In addition to being very beautiful, Red gives shade to people as well as it means home to many animals. Not just symbolically: many animal families live in its meadows and branches – opossums, badgers, owls and even a clever crow. But Red is even more special, it is a wish tree that people visit to tie their wishes on small papers or ribbons. Whether these wishes are fulfilled, no one knows, after all, Red only listens to them, does not accomplish them. Or does it? A little Muslim girl moved to one of the houses with her parents, which irritates some residents of the town. Red feels it’s been waiting and listening enough, it’s time for it to act. But what can a tree do?

I’ve never read a book in which a tree is a narrator telling its own story. However, during its long life, Red has learned so much about the world and the people that it is worth paying attention to what it says. The story teaches very important things, to protect nature, to take care of each other and to the bonds between us, our roots. And with the situation of the Muslim girl and her family, the author draws attention to current problems. It teaches the importance of tolerance and acceptance.

The beautiful cover and interior illustrations of the book are the work of Charles Santoso.

To learn more about the writer and her books, you can visit her website: https://katherineapplegate.com/.