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Release Date
September 07, 2021
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From #1 New York Times bestseller Katherine Applegate, a singular middle-grade novel about a girl who risks everything to help a handmade creature who comes to life.

The earth is old and we are not, and that is all you must remember . . .

Eleven-year-old Willodeen adores creatures of all kinds, but her favorites are the most unlovable beasts in the land: strange beasts known as “screechers.” The villagers of Perchance call them pests, even monsters, but Willodeen believes the animals serve a vital role in the complicated web of nature.

Lately, though, nature has seemed angry indeed. Perchance has been cursed with fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers, and even the annual migration of hummingbears, a source of local pride and income, has dwindled. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny animals have overwintered in shimmering bubble nests perched atop blue willow trees, drawing tourists from far and wide. This year, however, not a single hummingbear has returned to Perchance, and no one knows why.

When a handmade birthday gift brings unexpected magic to Willodeen and her new friend, Connor, she’s determined to speak up for the animals she loves, and perhaps even uncover the answer to the mystery of the missing hummingbears.

A timely and timeless tale about our fragile earth, and one girl’s fierce determination to make a difference.

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Magical Creatures in Nature
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Willodeen is the newest book from NYT‘s bestseller Katherine Applegate about a young girl who risks everything for a creature no one wants. An intelligent animal-lover, eleven year old Willodeen spends her days in the forests surrounding her village, studying the animals who live there and their habitats. Her favorite animal is the screecher, who she fiercely protects when she can. The screechers put off a foul smell, make horrible noises at night (hence the name), and root among some of the town’s favorite trees. Considered a pest, the town put a bounty on their heads much to Willodeen’s disappointment. Now she studies them in secret, protecting them when she can. Through a series of events, a baby screecher winds up in Willodeen’s care. Now it is up to her to prove that these animals and all the animals surrounding her village are in need of protecting.

I adore Willodeen. She is a traumatized young girl, losing her entire family in a fire a few years prior. Now she lives with the two elderly ladies in town who grant her the freedom to do as she wishes. Willodeen doesn’t enjoy crowds so she avoids them, staying out of school and learning through observation. She loves studying the wildlife around the village: screechers, hummingbears, the blue willow trees, etc. She even has a hummingbear she rescued who survived the same fire she did.

But like the screechers, the hummingbears are disappearing. This is a puzzle that plagues not only Willodeen but her village as well. Her village depends on the hummingbears to bring in tourists for the annual fall faire. Without them, many of the villagers will go broke. Through her tears, Willodeen finds a baby screecher or maybe turns one of her friend’s “puzzlers” into it. She really isn’t sure. But in studying her baby screecher, she may find the hope her village needs.

The story told through Willodeen in this book is so important. Like all of Applegate’s books, there are hidden lessons. Here the reader learns through Willodeen the importance of protecting the wildlife and habitat around them. She learns how nature is interconnected and how one missing piece affects the whole puzzle. I appreciated what the author conveyed here. I also loved the creatures that are purely fiction and add a bit of whimsy and magic to the otherwise heavy tale.

Final Thoughts: Through beautiful imagery and magical creatures, Katherine Applegate weaves a cautionary tale about the importance of protecting nature and its inhabitants in her newest release Willodeen.
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