I love trees. Not just in this season when the colors are spectacular, but during any time of year. Even in the winter when all I can see are the stark outlines against the bleak sky. I love the shapes, the hollows and the way they bend in the wind. And I especially love the thought that so many creatures call trees home.
When I do this, I can’t help but think of this page in Berenstain Bears Christmas Tree. It’s fascinating to think that not only birds depend upon trees to hold their nests, but so many different animals do as well. Then of course, there are all of the reasons kids can tell us why we need to be grateful for trees; for the oxygen, for the shade in the summer and for the erosion that is prevented when their strong roots hold the earth in place. So, when I first heard that Katherine Applegate had written a new book called Wishtree, I thought it would be perfect for me. Until I read it recently, I had no idea how perfect it was
Trees can’t tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .
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.
You see, all through my childhood, I have always imagined that the trees, the bugs, the animals were having conversations. I was absolutely certain about this. I am delighted to tell you that Wishtree confirms my beliefs! Wishtree is written from the point of view of Red (short for Red Oak), a 216 year old tree who has steadfastly witnessed, cared for and worried about his neighborhood. Not only has he always had great concern for all of the animals who called his giant branches and deep hollows home, he has also cared for the people who surrounded him everyday. He can tell stories about the baby who was left in one of his hollows to be found, loved and raised by his maiden owner. He can tell how his present owner (who doesn’t have a lot of love for him) is that maiden’s great granddaughter. He can tell how neighbors have come and gone and how many of those neighbors have immigrated from foreign countries. He can describe how they have all supported and loved one another with very little strife through the years, at least until now. Until a Muslim family moved into the neighborhood and everything changed. And finally he can tell how many years ago that maiden had tied a wish to his branches asking for “someone to love with all my heart” and from the simple act, Red had become known as the “Wishtree”.
This story is full compassion and humor, and as a bonus, lots of facts about animals I didn’t know! For example, did you know that animals who are active at twilight are called crespuscular animals? I certainly didn’t! Most importantly, it’s about kindness to people and animals, even if they are different than we are. And it’s one of the best read alouds for the ENTIRE family that I have read this year. I hope you’ll share it with your kids and let me know how you all like it in the comments below.
Finally, be sure and visit The Wishtree website. Watch the amazing video and DEFINITELY leave a wish!