The Mulberry Tree, by Alison Rushby

The Mulberry Tree, by Alison Rushby (Candlewick, middle grade, July 14 2020) is the sort of middle grade book I find most pleasantly escapist--set in the real world, in an English village, but with ominous supernatural forces at play, in this case, in the form of a sinister tree.

"Do naught wrong by the mulberry tree, or she'll take your daughters ... one, two, three."

It begins with ten-year-old Immy's family house-hunting in England. They moved from New Zealand, partly because her mother has a good new job in a hospital, and partly to give her dad a fresh perspective on life; problems with a patient of his back in New Zealand sent him into a spiral of depression. After many false starts, they find what seems to be the perfect home--a little cottage, with an ancient mulberry tree in its garden, in a charming village. But when the realtor finds out Immy's turning 11 soon, she abruptly tries to dissuade them from renting it. 

Two other girls who lived in the house mysteriously disappeared on their own 11th birthdays. And the village is convinced it was the doing of the mulberry tree. Immy and her family think this is nonsense. But the locals believe, and Immy has a hard time making friends with her new classmates as a result. But soon she starts to suspect there's truth to it. She starts to hear the creepy local rhyme about the tree playing in her head, and starts to feel that she has attracted the tree's attention. The kind old lady next door tells Immy about her own best friend, Elizabeth, one of the vanished girls (she and Immy also look after a family of hedgehogs, which is a lovely bonus!).

Immy's mother refuses to believe, and antagonizes the locals, while her father continues to struggle with depression. Immy herself becomes determined to not to let the tree win, but to figure out just what is happening and put an end to it. And she does, uncovering a forgotten piece of the past that lets her give the tree what it wants...and in the end, now at peace, the mulberry tree sets everything to rights.

If you like creepy mg fantasy in English villages, and stories of new kids plunged into the stress of making friends while having to cope with potentially fatal magical threats, you'll enjoy this one as much as I did! I loved the cottage, and Immy was an appealing protagonist; it was easy to empathize with her struggles (and with those of her parents as well, although when I was a mg reader I wouldn't have bothered to think much about the parents...) I got a bit hung up by the ending, which stretched my personal boundaries of what I'm willing to accept a magical tree can do to the breaking point/ I'd have been more satisfied if the tree had been more deeply rooted in a wider magical context, instead of just been a single very cross tree.

That being said, I did like the book as a whole very much!

And now I'm thinking of a post on magical mg trees (Juniper Berry, by M.P. Kozlowsky, The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, and (nice trees for a change!), The Magic of Melwick Orchard, by Rebecca Caprara, and I guess Enid Blyton's Magic Faraway Tree series (though those are for younger readers...). Huh. That's all I'm coming up with. What magical trees am I missing?

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. The Lie Tree sprang to mind immediately! Not mg enough?

    1. Good one! but yeah, definitely YA. I guess YA is allowed a few creepy trees too....

  2. I can't think of any other magical tree books, but I did like this book very much. It was creepy and I loved the village. Thanks for the post.


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