I’ll be honest, I was doubtful that middle grade readers would retain interest in a book narrated by a “wise old tree.” Red is the antithesis of what you see in many action-packed middle grade stories: calm, cool, steady, stationary, quiet. Fortunately, the tree’s animal friends provide movement and comic relief, both with their antics and with their ridiculous self-naming systems (skunks, for example, name themselves after their favorite smells, resulting in monikers like FreshBakedBread.) The book’s human characters are more enigmatic. We only see small insights into their actions and motivations from Red’s stationary vantage point.
Despite its unconventional narration, I found that my daughters remained riveted as we listened to Wishtree. I believe what makes this book shine is its accessibility. It has short chapters and the writing is straightforward. All levels of middle grade readers will be able to handle the writing and the themes, which focus on diversity, inclusion, kindness, and love. Exactly the themes our kids should be thinking and talking more about these days.
There is one word in Wishtree, one very simple word, that brought both my husband and I to tears. I won’t tell you what it is. You’ll know it when you get there.