Wishtree by Katherine Applegate


Katherine Applegate, Author

Feiwel & Friends, Fiction, Sep. 26, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Trees, Wishes, Crows, Animals, Friendship, Tolerance

Opening: It’s hard to talk to trees. We’re not big on chitchat. That’s not to say we can’t do amazing things, things you’ll probably never do. Cradle downy owlets. Steady flimsy tree forts. Photosynthesize. But talk to people? Not so much.


Red is an oak tree who is 216 rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree.” Every May 1 people come from all over town to write their most private wishes on pieces of paper, cloth, and socks and tie them to Red’s branches. He holds their hopes and dreams in his limbs. Then, they whisper their wish. Red listens but never responds. It’s against the rules for a tree to speak to a human.

Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood. Red has seen a lot of change over 200 years.

When a Muslim family moves in, Red observes how Samar and her family are treated by neighbors. Not everyone is welcoming.  Nasty threats are carved on his trunk, eggs are thrown, and ugly words shouted from passing cars.  More than ever, Red wants to fulfill Samar’s wish to find a friend. When Red learns the property owner may have some plans for him, he breaks some rules and ask his friends for help.

Why I like this book:

Katherine Applegate’s heartwarming middle grade novel is magical and conveys a message that is relevant today. It also reminds us of our common humanity.

The story is narrated by Red, a red oak tree, with compassion, concern, wisdom, and a sense of humor; no easy task for an author. Red’s branches and hollows are home to a birds and a furry cast of comical characters (owls, raccoons, opossums, skunks, cats and a crow) who live to together in harmony — most of the time. Red and his residents communicate openly with each other, but not with humans. Once a year Red is a wishtree for the town. Red’s world is vibrant and harbors a secret that needs to be shared.

Wishtree is a quiet and thoughtful read aloud with the entire family or in the classroom. It has a strong plot that with themes the encourage readers think about diversity, inclusion, acceptance, kindness and the true nature of friendship. It is a delightful mix that will keep readers turning pages. The story has Common Core connections.

For the next few months Greg Pattridge will be hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Thank you Greg for keeping MMGM active while author Shannon Messenger is on tour promoting her sixth book, Nightfall, in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, which was released November 7.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

36 thoughts on “Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

  1. Interesting that the POV is the tree’s. Sounds like a great book that deals with hard issues of diversity that we’re all dealing with right now. Beautiful cover too. I’ll have to pick this one up . Thanks.


  2. A great review. Telling a story from the point of view of a tree will give it a different perspective and one children will relate to. I know just the little person who would enjoy this. (The one who recited the poem on my blog. I have fixed it so it can be viewed by all now.)


  3. Such a creative way to tell a story. I like the read-aloud possibilities and the important themes. Thanks for sharing. I’ve added it to my list though it might be early 2018 by the time I get to it.


  4. This is by far one of the best books I have ever read. I could not put it down and the ending was soooooooo (I won’t spoil it). Who better than a tree to teach us all what it means to stand up for what’s right? This is going to be my go to gift for a whole lot of people. Thank you so much for lifting it up in your weekly review.


  5. Given that I’m the kind of person who has a few tree friends along my regular walking path–we say hi with a touch on their bark–I have a feeling this book was written for me. Love the cover, love the message, can’t wait to read it. Thanks so much for the recommendation!


    • I loved your comment. Yes, I think this book has your name on it. I love trees too and am fascinated with how they are almost “neurologically” connected in a forest with their root system — they communicate and take care of each other. So, this book really moved me.


  6. This book is narrated by a tree? That, along with the themes of inclusion and friendship that seem apparent in this novel, absolutely sold this book to me. 😊 This sounds like such a wonderful story, and I would love to see how Katherine Applegate manages to make me, as the reader, relate and fall for the character of a tree. I’ve always been more of a listener than a talker, so I’m looking forward to reading how Applegate develop’s the tree’s story and personality. Thanks for such a great recommendation, Patricia!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s