strong middle grade story with important themes
TREE OF DREAMS is a story about facing yourself, healing, standing up for/with others, and environmental activism. Coco is a 13-year-old who knows and loves chocolates. She helps her mother run an upscale chocolate shop called El Corazon, which buys fair trade beans. However, business has been decreasing in the expensive resort town where they live and work. Coco would do anything to help keep the shop afloat, and so, when she has a dream about a tree in the Amazon rainforest which has a treasure below, she knows she wants to go.
When a dessert making contest appears with the prize of a trip to the Amazon, Coco knows it is fate and creates the perfect chocolate masterpiece to enter. She is surprised at the contest to compete against her former BFF, Leo, who had rejected her months before, choosing to hang out with the popular crowd instead. When they are both announced as the winners, they embark on a journey to somewhere they never could have imagined.
When they arrive in the Amazon, they witness the realities of logging and oil extraction as well as the problems the indigenous peoples are facing. The forest is being destroyed. With a little luck and magic, maybe Coco and Leo might be able to find a way to help- and find Coco’s tree with the hopeful treasure to save the shop.
What I loved: This book really brings the current problems facing the Amazon rainforest to the forefront with a narrative exploration and description that shows the devastation they face. It is easy to connect with the characters- including the tree whose perspective we get in small sections throughout. This is a great book to introduce the concepts to a younger audience and help them to understand these issues.
Beyond the environmental issues, the book also raises concepts about regret and anger in terms of what they do to an individual and how to make amends/move on. These can also be valuable lessons for a younger audience who can empathize with the characters. Coco is a great and insightful main character that will appeal to the middle grade audience well.
There is also a bit of magical realism with the dreams and a couple other things (that I won’t say to avoid spoilers) that add a unique air to the book. It’s really a lovely middle grade read.
Final verdict: Overall, this is a fascinating story that will appeal to the middle grade audience with lessons about regret, anger, and the devastation facing the Amazon rainforest and its inhabitants. Great for chocolate lovers and people who are looking for a touching read, this book has broad appeal and important themes.