A moving exploration of friendship, activism, and how chocolate makes everything better.

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TREE OF DREAMS

Young chocolatier Coco searches for an ancient Amazonian tree on a life-changing, magical trip to Ecuador.

Thirteen-year-old Coco Hidden’s heart hurts. She loves El Corazón, the bean-to-bar chocolate shop her mother owns in the fictional Colorado town of Heartbeat Springs. But ever since Donut Delite opened across the street, business has plummeted so much Coco’s mom may have to close the shop. Meanwhile, Coco’s former best friend, Leo de la Cueva, is ignoring her in favor of “seventh-grade royalty,” and he even competes against her in a dessert contest to win a weeklong trip to the Amazon. Coco wants to win because she’s dreamed repeatedly of a ceiba tree that speaks to her, promising treasure that could save El Corazón. Providentially, they tie for first. When Coco (who’s white but fluent in Spanish) and Leo (who’s of Mexican descent), along with their moms and elderly Spanish friend Gali travel to Ecuador’s rainforest, they stay in a remote Huaorani village, befriend Isa and her family, and discover that the community as well as the ceiba trees are endangered by greedy logging and oil-drilling enterprises. Resau once again blends the magical (the ceiba tree also narrates chapters throughout the story) with the contemporary in this well-researched and beautifully told tale that encourages readers to advocate for Indigenous and environmental causes.

A moving exploration of friendship, activism, and how chocolate makes everything better. (author’s note, language note) (Fiction. 8-13)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-545-80088-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Moving and poetic.

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PAX

A motherless boy is forced to abandon his domesticated fox when his father decides to join soldiers in an approaching war.

Twelve-year-old Peter found his loyal companion, Pax, as an orphaned kit while still grieving his own mother’s death. Peter’s difficult and often harsh father said he could keep the fox “for now” but five years later insists the boy leave Pax by the road when he takes Peter to his grandfather’s house, hundreds of miles away. Peter’s journey back to Pax and Pax’s steadfastness in waiting for Peter’s return result in a tale of survival, intrinsic connection, and redemption. The battles between warring humans in the unnamed conflict remain remote, but the oncoming wave of deaths is seen through Pax’s eyes as woodland creatures are blown up by mines. While Pax learns to negotiate the complications of surviving in the wild and relating to other foxes, Peter breaks his foot and must learn to trust a seemingly eccentric woman named Vola who battles her own ghosts of war. Alternating chapters from the perspectives of boy and fox are perfectly paced and complementary. Only Peter, Pax, Vola, and three of Pax’s fox companions are named, conferring a spare, fablelike quality. Every moment in the graceful, fluid narrative is believable. Klassen’s cover art has a sense of contained, powerful stillness. (Interior illustrations not seen.)

Moving and poetic. (Animal fantasy. 9-13)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-237701-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2015

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A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph.

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WISHTREE

Generations of human and animal families grow and change, seen from the point of view of the red oak Wishing Tree that shelters them all.

Most trees are introverts at heart. So says Red, who is over 200 years old and should know. Not to mention that they have complicated relationships with humans. But this tree also has perspective on its animal friends and people who live within its purview—not just witnessing, but ultimately telling the tales of young people coming to this country alone or with family. An Irish woman named Maeve is the first, and a young 10-year-old Muslim girl named Samar is the most recent. Red becomes the repository for generations of wishes; this includes both observing Samar’s longing wish and sporting the hurtful word that another young person carves into their bark as a protest to Samar’s family’s presence. (Red is monoecious, they explain, with both male and female flowers.) Newbery medalist Applegate succeeds at interweaving an immigrant story with an animated natural world and having it all make sense. As Red observes, animals compete for resources just as humans do, and nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. This swiftly moving yet contemplative read is great for early middle grade, reluctant or tentative readers, or precocious younger students.

A deceptively simple, tender tale in which respect, resilience, and hope triumph. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-04322-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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