Author Katherine Applegate’s newest book, Wishtree, is a delightful middle-grade story about never losing hope and the importance of wishes. The book has already been met with praise far and wide for its ability to draw out reluctant or hesitant readers. Wishtree joins Katherine’s other works like The One and Only Ivan and Crenshaw as books that open children’s imaginations to exciting new possibilities.
First Book had the opportunity to speak with Katherine about Wishtree, the world of children’s books, and even boogers and farts.
First Book: Which comes to you first – a character or a story?
Katherine: It varies. I often find it’s like a recipe: a pinch of this, a cup of that. But then, I’m a notoriously lousy cook, so maybe that’s not the best analogy.
You tackle subjects in your books that adults are sometimes reluctant to discuss with children – animal abuse, food insecurity, prejudice. What evidence have you seen that readers are ready for – and hungry for – these conversations?
Every time I visit a school to talk about a book, I’m reminded of just how idealistic and hopeful kids are. They know so much more than we give them credit for. We can’t shelter them from the hard realities of the world—though we try—but we can find ways to talk about those things. I’m always amazed at how ready kids are to discuss complex and nuanced topics.
Of course, they also like to discuss boogers and farts.
Publishers Weekly called Wishtree “a distinctive call for kindness.” What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I dedicated the book to newcomers and welcomers. I hope readers think about what “welcoming” might mean in their own community: a smile, an attempt to see things from another point of view, a small kindness.
What are your thoughts about the current children’s book climate, especially regarding advances in diversity and the need for a wide range of experiences?
There’s nothing more wonderful than seeing a child hug a book and say, “This character is just like me!”
We can’t help ourselves and hate to limit you to one, so, can you tell us what are your top three wishes at this moment in time? And, secondly, what do you wish for a book like Wishtree which comes at such a very troubling moment in US history? Can you speak to the reason behind the voice of the old oak tree and what it symbolizes for you in this story?
If Wishtree helps foster conversations about how we can create a more tolerant country, I would be thrilled indeed. Red, the old oak tree, proved to be a wonderful narrator. Sometimes you need an outside perspective on the world, especially our world. 3 wishes? Let’s see:
- A book tour where I get to see old friends and make new ones. (Feeling pretty confident on this one.)
- An entire week where I don’t feel the need to turn off the news for the sake of my sanity.
- A world full of welcomers.
MacMillan children’s publishing has offered to donate a book for every social media share with #wishingday through October 2, 2017. Click here to learn more about nationwide wishing day, today, September 28th!