Title: The Eagle Tree
Author: Ned Hayes
Publisher: Little A
Pages: Paperback; 270
Release Date: July 5,2016
Source: TLC Book Tours
Content Screening: Mild Adult Language
HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart
Recommended to: Readers who are interested in gaining new knowledge of trees, and enjoy reading from the POV of a character on the autism spectrum.
Fourteen-year-old March Wong knows everything there is to know about trees. They are his passion and his obsession, even after his recent falls—and despite the state’s threat to take him away from his mother if she can’t keep him from getting hurt. But the young autistic boy cannot resist the captivating pull of the Pacific Northwest’s lush forests just outside his back door.
One day, March is devastated to learn that the Eagle Tree—a monolithic Ponderosa Pine near his home in Olympia—is slated to be cut down by developers. Now, he will do anything in his power to save this beloved tree, including enlisting unlikely support from relatives, classmates, and even his bitter neighbor. In taking a stand, March will come face-to-face with some frightening possibilities: Even if he manages to save the Eagle Tree, is he risking himself and his mother to do it?
Intertwining themes of humanity and ecology, The Eagle Tree eloquently explores what it means part of a family, a society, and the natural world that surrounds and connects us.
The Eagle Tree still has me sitting here, puzzling over exactly how I feel. Ned Hayes introduces us to Peter March Wong, a 14 year old boy who is on the autism spectrum. March, as he prefers to be called, is compulsively drawn to trees. Obsessed, if you will. His life is measured in trees. In the number of trees he climbs daily, the kinds of trees he has yet to climb, and the amount of time that he spends in each one he's had the opportunity to scale. I admit, it's a little daunting to meet March for the first time. His passion for this topic is unbridled, and a little overwhelming. If you have The Eagle Tree on your reading list, prepare to learn copious amounts of new information about tree types, climate changes, and old-growth forests.
Now, that's not to say that the information presented in this book isn't interesting. March's knowledge of all things tree related is astounding. Hayes' use of tactile imagery brings the reader straight into the Pacific Northwest. A place brimming with life, and also sadly at risk of dying away. March's description of the forest, as he walked through, was immersive. I could almost feel myself touching the bark with his hands, and feeling the warmth of the sunlight through the leaves. These were the portions that I loved, and clung to. Unfortunately, March's autism draws him more towards the factual than the fanciful. So there were also large portions of this book that felt like info dumps. I believe I've learned more about Ponderosa Pines and the tree beetles than I could ever hope to know in a lifetime. This book walks a thin line between fiction and non-fiction at times, and it can be jarring.
What I would have loved to see, since I enjoyed March's truth telling personality so much, was more about his relationships with the people around him. His mother, and his uncle, both play a part in this story. It ends up secondary, however, to his obsession with trees. There is an underlying plot where March's tree climbing will sometimes cause him to injure himself and, because he's so focused on his mission, he won't notice until much later. Bumps, bruises and lacerations have caused March's mother to be under scrutiny as a parent. Is she unfit to take care of March alone? I would have liked to see this explored a bit further. There wasn't much discussion of these people who were important to March, as seen through his eyes. If more of the book had focused on that, I think there would have been a nice balance.
As it stands, The Eagle Tree is a well written book. It does a fabulous job of portraying an autistic teen, and March's knowledge of trees is most definitely impressive. This book also pushes the idea that we are connected to nature, and need to remember that. Hayes expertly explains why climate change is such an issue, and what it is doing to the very trees that March loves. It might have been a bit dry at times, but I can't complain about the amount of passionate research that must have gone into creating this story. It absolutely shows.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.