Chapters 1–9

The narrator of this novel is Red, an oak tree on which people hang their wishes every year. When Samar, a new girl in the neighborhood, faces bullying and intolerance, Red attempts to rally the local animals and intervene.

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definitions & notes only words
  1. flimsy
    lacking solidity or strength
    That’s not to say we can’t do amazing things, things you’ll probably never do. Cradle downy owlets. Steady flimsy tree forts.
  2. bashful
    self-consciously timid
    Trees do talk to some folks, the ones we know we can trust. We talk to daredevil squirrels. We talk to hardworking worms. We talk to flashy butterflies and bashful moths.
  3. particularly
    to a distinctly greater extent or degree than is common
    Nonetheless, if you find yourself standing near a particularly friendly-looking tree on a particularly lucky-feeling day, it can’t hurt to listen up.
  4. introvert
    a person who tends to shrink from social contacts
    Most trees are introverts at heart.
  5. ridge
    extend in long raised strips
    I have ridged, reddish-gray bark; leathery leaves with pointed lobes; stubborn, searching roots; and, if I do say so myself, the best fall color on the street.
  6. aspiration
    a cherished desire
    But for a long time people in the neighborhood have called me the “wishtree.”
    There’s a reason for this, and it goes way back to when I wasn’t much more than a tiny seed with higher aspirations.
  7. adorn
    make more attractive, as by adding ornament or color
    Every year on the first day of May, people come from all over town to adorn me with scraps of paper, tags, bits of fabric, snippets of yarn, and the occasional gym sock.
  8. snippet
    a small piece of anything
    Every year on the first day of May, people come from all over town to adorn me with scraps of paper, tags, bits of fabric, snippets of yarn, and the occasional gym sock.
  9. longing
    prolonged unfulfilled desire or need
    Each offering represents a dream, a desire, a longing.
  10. occasional
    occurring or appearing at usually irregular intervals
    Wishtrees have a long and honorable history, going back centuries. There are many in Ireland, where they are usually hawthorns or the occasional ash tree. But you can find wishtrees all over the world.
  11. bestow
    give as a gift
    It’s an honor, all the hopes bestowed upon my tired old limbs.
  12. nonetheless
    despite anything to the contrary
    As you've probably noticed, I’m more talkative than most trees. This is new for me. I’m still getting the hang of it.
    Nonetheless, I’ve always known how to keep a secret.
  13. discreet
    unobtrusively perceptive and sympathetic
    You have to be discreet when you’re a wishtree.
  14. speckle
    mark with small spots
    She’s my best pal, a crow I’ve known since she was nothing but a pecking beak in a speckled egg.
  15. pessimistic
    expecting the worst possible outcome
    I think Bongo is too pessimistic for such a young bird.
  16. optimistic
    hopeful that the best will happen in the future
    Bongo thinks I’m too optimistic for such an old tree.
  17. whim
    a sudden desire
    As is the custom with crows, Bongo chose her name after her first flight. It may not be her only name, however. Crows change names on a whim. Bongo’s cousin, Gizmo, has had seventeen names.
  18. maneuver
    a deliberate coordinated movement requiring dexterity
    They’ll name themselves after aerobatic maneuvers: DeathSpiral or BarrelRoll.
  19. mimic
    someone who imitates
    Many crows opt for sounds they’re fond of making. (Crows are excellent mimics.)
  20. botanist
    a biologist specializing in the study of plants
    Over the years, I’ve learned that botanists—those lucky souls who study the lives of plants all day—call some trees, such as hollies and willows, “dioecious,” which means they have separate male and female trees.
  21. intervene
    get involved, so as to alter or hinder an action
    There’ve been so many times I’ve wanted to speak up, to intervene, to help people.
  22. profusely
    in an abundant manner
    He woke up to Fly, who was apologizing profusely, squatting on his forehead.
  23. breach
    a failure to perform some promised act or obligation
    Clearly a breach of the Don’t Talk to People rule.
  24. intricate
    having many complexly arranged elements; elaborate
    People speak with the help of lungs, throats, voice boxes, tongues, and lips, thanks to an intricate symphony of sound and breath and movement.
  25. stifled
    held in check with difficulty
    An eyebrow cocked, a giggle stifled, a tear brushed aside: These, too, are ways you express yourself.
  26. burrow
    move through by or as by digging
    Folks nest on my branches. Burrow between my roots. Lay eggs on my leaves.
  27. hollow
    a cavity or space in something
    Tree hollows—holes in a trunk or branch—are not uncommon, especially in trees like me who’ve been around awhile.
  28. exceeding
    far beyond what is usual in magnitude or degree
    One year I was home to a lovely and exceedingly polite porcupine family.
  29. hoard
    save up as for future use
    Long story. (I have lots of those, stored up the way a squirrel hoards acorns.)
  30. paltry
    contemptibly small in amount or size
    It was a big wound, slow to heal, and my spring leafing that year was paltry, my fall color pale (and, frankly, embarrassing).
  31. elements
    violent or severe weather
    Hollows offer protection from the elements.
  32. bicker
    argue over petty things
    Grass cools the earth, but it also bickers with me over water.
  33. unprecedented
    novel; having no earlier occurrence
    This is unprecedented. Never have I sheltered so many babies. It just doesn’t happen. Animals like space.
  34. wary
    marked by keen caution and watchful prudence
    She is perhaps ten years old or so, with wary eyes and a shy smile.
  35. trudge
    walk heavily and firmly, as when weary, or through mud
    Even on the coldest nights, she trudged outside in her red boots and green jacket.
  36. venture
    proceed somewhere despite the risk of possible dangers
    As it grew warmer, Samar would venture out in her pajamas and robe and sit beneath me on an old blanket, spattered with moonlight.
  37. apparent
    clearly revealed to the mind or the senses or judgment
    Her silence was so complete, her gentleness so apparent, that the residents would crawl from their nests of thistledown and dandelion fluff to join her.
  38. tolerate
    put up with something or somebody unpleasant
    Bongo keeps a stash of odds and ends in one of my smaller hollows (which the opossums kindly tolerate).
  39. bribe
    make illegal payments to in exchange for favors or influence
    “You never know who I might need to bribe,” she likes to say.
    But her gifts to Samar weren’t bribes. They were just Bongo’s way of saying, “I’m glad we’re friends.”
  40. dominance
    the state when one person or group has power over another
    Animals compete for resources, just like humans. They eat one another. They fight for dominance.
Created on June 23, 2018 (updated September 6, 2018)

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