The Secrets of Tree Taylor by Dandi Daley Mackall, Knopf, 2014. ISBN: 9780375868979. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.
Tree Taylor is sitting on the front step one Sunday morning in her PJ’s, trying to come up with something to write about, when she hears a gunshot down the street. Her dad, the town doctor, hustles past her and tells her to stay put as he heads to where the shot was fired. Tree follows and from her hiding place, watches as their reclusive neighbor. Mrs. Kinney comes out of the house carrying a rifle. Her dad’s behavior is curious. He turns away from Mrs. Kinney and sits on the step. When she lowers the rifle, he takes it. He tells the sheriff that the shooting of Mr. Kinney in the shoulder, was accidentally self-inflicted.
Tree knows something doesn’t add up, but her father won’t tell her what really happened and she needs the details in order to write an article that will get her the lone freshman spot on the high school newspaper. What follows the events on this Sunday in 1963, is a wonderfully sad coming of age story. Tree begins the summer with two goals: Get on the newspaper staff and experience her first real kiss, preferably with Ray who has amazing blue eyes.
Tree faces plenty of obstacles that summer. Her best friend, Sara, has terrible news for her, her poem gets published on the front page of the town newspaper, she learns, first hand, not once, but twice, how the Vietnam War can tear families and communities apart, she learns that sometimes you have to speak out, even if it means you might lose a friend, she achieves her goals, but in unexpected ways and she learns that no matter how close families are, there will always be secrets.
Dandi has written a stellar book that younger teens will really love. There’s so much, done so well, it’s difficult to know where to start in praising it.