The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby. Candlewick, 2020. 9781536207613

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? Immy and her parents immigrate from Australia to England so her Mom can take a job there. Getting to know her classmates is difficult because Immy is living in Lavender Cottage, a little house with a mulberry tree which has a bad history. Her classmates don’t think Immy and her family have taken seriously the lore about the tree, that it steals girls away on the eve of their 11th birthday, never to be seen again. Then, Immy begins to hear a creepy rhyme in her head about the tree, but feels inexorably drawn to it despite its menacing branches. She feels that the tree “saw things and knew things.” Meanwhile, relations with her parents grow strained, as her Mom is working long hours and her dad is struggling with depression. When her parents convince her to have a birthday party on her 11th birthday, Immy wonders if anyone will come to it, and whether she will be there to celebrate it! This is a creepy read, which melds superstition with school drama, with some cute hedgehogs thrown in for relief from the suspense. The family’s struggles with assimilation and depression are realistic, as seen through the lens of a preadolescent child who is trying to balance her own needs with those of her parents’.

Anything you didn’t like about it? I found the conclusion unsatisfying [spoiler alert]. The tree communicates its sadness to Immy and when Immy is sympathetic, the tree loses its evil ways and the past is re-written. The missing girls are present in the last chapter because the tree changed the town’s history. Perhaps young readers who crave the supernatural will accept this ending, but I felt cheated.

To whom would you recommend this book?  For middle grade readers who enjoy spooky goings-on in a realistic present day setting.

Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: August 19, 2020

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