Life can be painful and messy


By Katherine Applegate

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Wishtree is a cute story for middle-grade readers. The main character of the story is Red, a large, old oak tree. Red has witnessed many things in her long life, both good and bad. In the story, an act of hate directed at a new member of the community initially generates an angry response, but ends up drawing the neighbors closer together.

“Hollows are proof that something bad can become something good with enough time and enough care and hope.”

Red describes some of the difficulties she personally has faced over the course of her two hundred years. One such trial, one which she had to face more than once, was the loss of a limb. Rather than focus on the pain of the loss, or the emptiness left behind, Red describes the hollow created by the missing limb as something that, in time, became something good. Although it hurt, losing something very important to her created an opportunity for her to meet the needs of others. Her hollows became the homes to numerous animals, many of which would become her close friends.

Life is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s through pain that our lives become something more than they ever could have had we been spared the loss.

“Life, like a good garden is messy.”

It is truly a blessing when our needs are met abundantly and we can live pain-free, but the reality is that most of us don’t experience this in life, at least not on a long-term basis. We are all facing trials in our lives. Using the garden analogy, these trials may be weeds, pests, or animals that seek to eat or destroy the beautiful fruit we are trying to cultivate. Applegate acknowledges these difficulties through her creative storytelling. She reminds us that in spite of the world’s ugliness and the pain with which we suffer, a community that comes together to support one another, can help ease the pain, reduce the ugliness, and it can even create joy!

I would recommend that parents of middle-grade students read this book to their kids aloud. Take some time to discuss with your kids both the kind and unkind actions of the characters in the story.

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