Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Secret Tree, by Natalie Standiford

The town of Cantonsville has it's fair share of weirdness going on.  Not only are there rumors of the Man-Bat, but there's the witch lady on the other side of the woods, the legend of Crazy Ike, and one day when Minty and Paz are hanging out, Minty sees a creature in the woods followed by a flash!  Minty crashes through the woods trying to find it.  She loses the creature but finds a strange tree.  It seems to be murmuring and when Minty reaches in the big hole in its trunk she finds a note that she quickly stuffs in her pocket to examine later.

Minty and Paz are best friends with some pretty big roller derby dreams.  Minty, aka Minty Fresh, and Paz, aka Pax A. Punch, have been practicing their moves since they were 8 years old and saw the local team The Catonsville Nine in action.  Paz, however, seems to be distancing herself from Minty in favor of things that are decidedly not roller derby:  things like hanging out at the pool with Isabelle, and wearing glittery nail polish and barrettes.  Minty's summer is definitely not going how she planned.

When Minty is walking down her street she sees that mysterious flash again and takes chase.  This time she ends up at a model home next to the witch's house on the other side of the woods where she finds a boy.   His name is Raymond and he apparently lives there.  Like Minty, he knows about the secret filled tree, and like Minty he is in need of a friend.  Soon the two are skulking around town, finding secrets by good old spying.  But some secrets cannot be stuffed in a tree and forgotten.  Some secrets bubble up and create a big mess before they can be made better.

Standiford has written an ideal summer read for the middle grade set.  Perfectly paced and tightly written, The Secret Tree is filled with mystery, family, friendship, and long summer hours.  Readers are bound to start looking at people and trees through new eyes. 

Highly recommended.

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