Today Marshmallow reviews Willodeen, a 2021 novel by Katherine Applegate.
Marshmallow’s Quick Take: If you like books about friendship, magic, or animals, then this might be the book for you.
Marshmallow’s Summary (with Spoilers): Willodeen loves all animals. Every single one, no matter how gross, or scary, or smelly, Willodeen adores them all. Especially the screechers. Screechers are scary animals, beasts that release a disgusting smell when frightened.
Screechers are about the polar opposites of hummingbears, which are the main claim to fame of Perchance, Willodeen’s village. Hummingbears are small with wings and they nest every year in Perchance because of the trees there. Tourists flock to Perchance to see the adorable creatures. Unfortunately, over the years, fewer and fewer hummingbears have graced Perchance, and the townspeople find it harder and harder to make a living. However, no one wants to see screechers, so the city councilors of Perchance put a bounty on screechers. Hunters immediately start to kill screechers, because no one is very rich.
Willodeen loves screechers: she observes them, names them, and likes to watch them. But slowly, the number of screechers dwindles, until the last one is killed by a hunter with a bow and arrow. That’s when something miraculous happens. Willodeen receives a hand-made model of a screecher from her new friend Connor, and the model seems to become a real baby screecher. Willodeen suddenly finds herself with the challenge of feeding, living with, and raising a baby screecher, which is no easy task, especially with the bounty.
Eventually Willodeen finds that the lessening of hummingbears is related to the screechers. Can Willodeen bring the hummingbears back to Perchance?
Marshmallow’s Review: Willodeen is set in a fantastic setting, with the people using bows and arrows instead of guns. The story is set in a small town called Perchance where magical animals roam. However, despite Perchance’s magical beasts, the author speaks about how the world and nature is changing, and not always for the better. So in some ways, I thought the author was thinking of our world where a lot has been changing.
I found it interesting that the main character and narrator, Willodeen, is very antisocial. After suffering from a terrible tragedy, she interacts very little with other people. Slowly however, she opens up towards new friends. It was neat to witness her opening up and finding other people to trust and love. I kind of wished to know more about her family, too, but that part kind of went too fast.
I liked the magical animals in this book. In the edition I have read, there were illustrations (by Charles Santoso) of some of the events in the book, which I really liked. The small creatures reminded me a bit of Newt Scamander and his love of all magical beasts in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Willodeen was written by Katherine Applegate, who also wrote The One and Only Ivan. I liked that both books showed animals as creatures that think, feel, and need love, as much as humans do. The One and Only Ivan was written completely in the voice of Ivan the gorilla. In Willodeen, there are some chapters where we see events from, I believe, the perspective of the baby screecher. I found that those chapters were interesting to read, because we could see the main human characters from the perspective of an animal.
Marshmallow’s Rating: 90%.