The Magic of Melwick Orchard, by Rebecca Caprara

The Magic of Melwick Orchard, by Rebecca Caprara, is her debut middle grade real-world fantasy, and it is a good one!

The sapling in the old apple orchard, and its magic, appeared in Isa's life just when she needed it most.  With her little sister June dangerously sick from cancer, her parents seem to have lost the will or the ability to pay any attention to her.  She needs parents too, not just to share her own sadness and worry with, but to take care of the mundane things of life--lunch money, clothes, food.  And she has no friends to turn to. Her father's job has taken them from place to place, so she decided to quit trying to have friends--her sister is enough, and together they enjoyed their new home at Melwick Orchard, where the trees have grown no apples for years, until June got sick.

So Isa is at a very low point when she finds a most unusual sapling in the orchard; it seems almost magical.  When a squirrel decides to dig a hole just the right size to bury her warn out, too small sneakers, Isa throws them in.  But come the next morning, she has no other shoes to wear, and so revisits the sapling.  Much to her surprise, it's grown considerably, and even more surprisingly, there are new shoes in its seed pods (not just ordinary sneaker, but, very thoughtfully, softball cleats and rain boots).  It really is magic.

Heartened by the magic of the tree, Isa finds the strength to say yes to overtures of friendship from another girl in her class, and the courage to tell her about the tree's magic.  But will the magic be able to help June, and help Isa's family cope with the mounting bills that might force them from the magical orchard?  In the end, it's science that helps June, but the magic, once Isa's learned to be careful what she wishes for, that save her home.

There's a very good balance here between the magic of the tree and the realistic story lines of Isa's life.  The magic doesn't solve all the real issues--Isa has to decide to be a friend, and her parents have to realize that Isa is being neglected, and the doctors have to help June...the tree perhaps oils the wheels a bit, but doesn't make miracles happens.  What the tree's magic does is provide a lovely magical counterpart of joy to the sadness Isa is going through, giving her the strength and hope to keep going.

I read it in as much of a single sitting as my day allowed (work gets in the way of so many things...) and enjoyed it very much.  The fantasy was beautifully vivid, and avoided being cloying, the sick sister was touching, without being too sad to bear.

(ARC received at Book Expo)


  1. I don't usually read fantasy, but this book sounds downright, well, magical! I think I will be looking for this one. Thanks for telling me about it.

    1. I hope you enjoy it! The fantasy is an accompaniment to the girl's story, rather than the be all and end all, so though you don't generally read fantasy, it might work well for you!

  2. Putting this on my list. Did you ever read The Apple Stone by Nicholas Stuart Gray? Also starts in an orchard. Any others? I seem to remember apples in The Road to Oz. The Pevenseys (so?) eat a lot of apples at beginning of Prince Caspian.

    1. yes, I enjoyed the Apple Stone! Can't think of any other apples off the top of my head though...Hope you enjoy this one!


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