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Author: Applegate, Katherine
An old red oak tree tells how he and his crow friend, Bongo, help their human neighbors get along after a threat against an immigrant family is carved into the tree's trunk.
Kirkus Reviews (+) (08/15/17)
School Library Journal (+) (06/01/17)
Booklist (+) (07/01/17)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (00/07/17)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 06/01/2017 Gr 4–8—Newbery Award—winning author Applegate meets high expectations in this tale told by a tree named Red, a red oak who is "two hundred and sixteen rings old." Touching on religious bigotry and the environment, Applegate keeps the emphasis on her characters, the many animals and birds who find shelter in the tree's branches all year round. (All the birds and animals have names and the power to talk, just like Red.) Around the first of May, people write down their wishes on pieces of cloth and hang them from the tree's branches, giving Red a special place in the community. The pacing starts out slowly, with early chapters focused almost entirely on the natural world, but eventually readers meet the human at the novel's center. Samar, a recent Muslim refugee, is lonely and in need of a friend. A nameless boy uses the tree to convey hateful messages to Samar and her family. The owner of the tree is tired of roots in the plumbing and hopes all the nastiness will disappear if the tree is cut down, having forgotten the story of her ancestors and the beginning of all the wishes. Red decides to intervene and ask for help from the animals and birds. Even those who shy away from books with talking animals will find this believable fantasy elegant and poignant. Widening the appeal is a sparse word count, making this a great choice for a family or classroom read-aloud and an inviting option for reluctant readers. VERDICT Another stunning effort from Applegate. This thoughtful read is a top choice for middle graders.—Carol A. Edwards, formerly at Denver Public Library - Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 07/01/2017 *Starred Review* Just a tree, huh? Beloved author and Newbery winner Applegate returns with a moving tale starring, of all things, an oak tree. Red has stood her ground for more than a century, watching over the houses in her neighborhood and befriending the animals that call her hollows home. Each May, her branches are strung with wishes, a tradition stemming from an Irish immigrant who once lived on the property. Red sees all, including an act of hate—the word leave scrawled into her trunk, aimed at new renters, a Muslim family. After so many years of keeping quiet, Red and the animals take action, aiming to connect Samar, a young Muslim girl, with her neighbor Stephen. Meanwhile, Red’s owner considers cutting her down. Short chapters and a slim word count widen the audience of this beautiful tale. In less capable hands, the subject matter could come across as moralizing, but by introducing a charming cast of critters—opossums, birds, squirrels, and so on—Applegate adds levity, humor, and balance. Though the story’s happy ending is predictable, not all is wrapped in a tidy bow. Hate and prejudice still exist in Samar and Stephen’s world, as in our own. Timely, necessary, and brimming with heart. - Copyright 2017 Booklist.