Friday, May 17, 2019

Review: The Magic of Melwick Orchard by Rebecca Caprara


After more moves than they can count, Isa's family finally puts down roots. People in town are afraid of the abandoned orchard behind their home, but Isa and her sister Junie are happy to have acres of land to explore.

But when Junie gets sick, Isa's mom falls into a depression, and medical bills force Isa's dad to work more. No one notices that Isa's clothes are falling apart and her stomach is empty.

Out of frustration, Isa buries her out-grown sneakers in the orchard. The next day a sapling sprouts buds that bloom to reveal new shoes. Can Isa use this magical tree to save her family?

Since reading this charming middle grade novel, I have found myself mentioning it during a few library tours. It hasn't been planned, or even part of the main topic, but something about a tree that grows useful things lends itself nicely to anyone's imagination!

That is not all this story is about, however. Junie's illness touches on so many hard topics - what it's like to be a child who is sick but who must 'be strong'. What it's like to be the child who doesn't 'need' (and doesn't get) much of her parent's attention. The different ways a parent can be absent - or too present. The struggles (emotional as well as financial) of those parents. The compounded difficulty of making new friends when so many other things weigh on your mind, and the joy and strength that comes when you do make them - be they human or arboreal!

Caprara does an excellent job of balancing the tough feelings with the magical, bringing the reader back before despair sets in. Every time I thought the suspension of disbelief was going to be too hard (come on, how would they explain all those <things - shh!> they were bringing to the hospital?), an explanation or change in plot line would make it work out. I predict this is a title upper middle grade girls in particular will be passing on to each other!

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