by Katherine Applegate (Author)

Reading Level: 4th – 5th Grade

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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Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review

Employing flawlessly simple, candid prose that belies deeper messages, Newbery Medalist Applegate again considers the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. Before Willodeen’s family died in the Great September Fire when she was just six, her father taught her to love and respect animals, especially the most unlovable. Now, Willodeen’s kind but occasionally cantankerous guardians don’t seem to mind when the 10-year-old skips school to look for screechers. The sharp-toothed, foul-smelling animals are hated-and hunted-by Perchance’s townspeople, who prefer sweet-faced, tourist-garnering hummingbears. Lately, though, both species have been disappearing. After Willodeen witnesses the killing of an elderly screecher, new friend Connor crafts one for her birthday that magically comes to life. Now, Willodeen must overcome her aversion to people to protect it while trying to solve the mystery of the animals’ disappearance. Via imaginative depictions, including interspersed chapters from the screecher’s point of view, Applegate brings an intimate cast of default-white human characters and scene-stealing mythical ones to life. Fiercely protective Willodeen is easy to champion, and her belief that "nature knows more than we do" is a message worth sharing. Ages 8-12. 

Copyright 2021 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Katherine Applegate
Katherine Applegate is the author of many books, including the Roscoe Riley Rules series, The Buffalo Storm, and the award-winning Home of the Brave.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
September 20, 2021
Texas Bluebonnet Master List
2022 - 2023

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