Eleven year old Willodeen was adopted by two older women after her family died in a fire. Willodeen is a little … ‘different’ compared to other children her age. She has no friends (not human, anyway) and she loves nature – understanding more about the natural world than most adults.
Willodeen has a special affection for an unusual creature called a ‘screecher.’ To most in Willodeen’s community (Perchance), screechers are nothing more than pests and the villagers are happy to note that the screechers aren’t coming around as much. But Willodeen believes there is an importance to screechers, just as there are to the tiny hummingbears that should be around, but aren’t.
Perchance has suffered through fires, and mudslides, and drought recently and Willodeen, a bright and observant girl with a bond to nature sees a connection between the low numbers of screechers and absent hummingbears and the devestation happening in Perchance. She enlists the help of Connor, the one other person her age she might consider a friend, to go into the woods and fix the problem.
This is a sweet story and the message about the interdependence of all living things couldn’t be more timely as we struggle to hang on to forests and glaciers and other natural spaces. And connecting animals to these spaces is a powerful means to capture the interest of many younger readers.
The natural aspects of the book, along with the unusual creatures were delightfully drawn and attention-getting. I was looking forward to reading in the book each day because I was curious about these aspects.
The character of Willodeen, however, was less interesting to me. She had that ‘go-get-’em’ attitude that is necessary in a children’s book, and made her somewhat delightful, but over all I never got much of a sense of who she is/was. It didn’t matter to me what Willodeen did. What mattered was that nature be restored. The hummingbears, which nearly never appear in the book, were a more interesting character than Willodeen.
Still, the environmental message alone makes this worth reading and I know many young readers who will identify with our protagonist.
Looking for a good book? Willodeen is a middle-grade/young adult novel with a powerful environmental message written by one of the best writers of books for children currently publishing – Katherine Applegate. Every public and school library is likely to have this and it’s worth checking out.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Katherine Applegate
publisher: Feiwel Friends
hardcover, 272 pages