Author: Katherine Applegate
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: September 26th, 2017
GoodReads Summary: 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.
What I Think: Oh, Katherine Applegate. She's done it again. I love Wishtree so much. It's another book from her with a whole lot of heart. And the most fascinating thing is the main character is a tree who has a whole lot of heart. I'm so excited to share this with young readers because I'm sure it will spark great discussion.
As I was reading I kept thinking of Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks and I might go reread it to see how they might connect. Overall, the tone in Wishtree reminded me of Seedfolks but I also saw similarities in the themes.
The tone of Wishtree is so clear because Katherine so purely writes Red (the wishtree) as a character. It's beautiful. When I think about characters in my own writing, I think about who they are and what I know about them that my readers might never know. I make sure I know what they have gone through as characters before the story starts because all those little experiences shape who they are. Everything that has happened to them is part of why they make the decisions they do. It's not always easy for a writer to not include all of these past experiences...I've seen lots of student writers tell readers way too much early on. I *might* happen to also do this in my own writing, especially in first drafts. But in revisions, I can usually spot when I'm telling and either delete my rambling or find a way to work it in without dumping all the information in one spot.
One other way Wishtree can be used as a mentor text is to look at foreshadowing. Katherine gives us really subtle clues of theme throughout the book. I pulled two examples to share in the snatch of text. Both of these come at the end of a chapter. Red is so wise but if readers stop and think about what he's pointing out along the way, we can start to recognize some foreshadowing in the story. As a writer, I've found that I'm able to find little snippets of clues I can leave for my reader along the way. Some of them make it into my first draft but I find that I'm better able to add in foreshadowing during revisions when I know where my story is going overall. One of my favorite mentor texts for foreshadowing is One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo with illustrations by David Small. There are so many clues along the way if you just slow down and really pay attention. The trick to being able to pepper in foreshadowing as a writer is to recognize how authors use foreshadowing as a reader. And Wishtree allows you to do just that!
Snatch of Text:
"If this were a fairy tale, I would tell you there was something magical about Samar. That she cast a spell on the animals, perhaps. Animals don't just leave their nests and burrows willingly. They are afraid of people, with good reason.
But this isn't a fairy tale, and there was no spell. Animals compete for resources, just like humans.
They eat one another. They fight for dominance. Nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. But sometimes surprises happen. And Samar, every spring night, reminded me there is beauty in stillness and grace in acceptance.
And that you're never too old to be surprised."
"Watching Bongo soar, I considered, not for the first time, my rambling roots. What would it be like to fly? To burrow? To swim? To gallop?
Delightful, no doubt. Sheer joy. And yet. I wouldn't trade a single rootlet for any of it.
It is a great gift indeed to love who you are."
Writing Prompt: Why does Katherine Applegate choose to end two chapters with the phrases like the snatches of text above?
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