Willodeen by Katherine Applegate

Hello, Katherine Applegate! Welcome back to Watch. Connect. Read. It feels as though it has been 100 years since you, Dr. Alice Lee, and I celebrated books together during an episode of Book Joy Live. I am SO, SO, SO happy we can celebrate Willodeen’s cover together today, even if it is virtually. Please take us on a tour of Willodeen’s intriguing and glorious cover, illustrated by Charles Santoso and designed by Rich Deas. 

Katherine Applegate: I have to say this is one of my favorite covers of all time! Those two strange creatures are at the heart of the story. The big one is Quinby, a “screecher,” (and a member of a much-maligned species.) The little one is a “hummingbear” named Duuzuu.

Charles and Rich also did the cover for wishtree, another gorgeous effort.

Scenario: You are standing in the middle of a school library in Naperville, Illinois, surrounded by 300 enthusiastic 4th graders. What do you tell them about Willodeen

Katherine Applegate: First of all, I’d say “YAY! I’ve missed school visits so much!”

Then I’d tell them that Willodeen is, most importantly, about fighting for this beautiful planet we call home. It’s about the ways we are all connected, about biodiversity and species interdependence. And it’s about listening to your conscience and finding the bravery that lies inside each of us.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

I wrote Willodeen because I wanted to show how one person can make a real difference in our battle with climate change. I love Willodeen, the hero, an eleven-year-old girl who’s both fierce and gentle.

Although this story is a fantasy, the stakes are real and relatable. In fact, the epigraph of Willodeen is a quote from Greta Thunberg, the Swedish environmental activist: “I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.”

Did you know that Willodeen features several invented species? My two favorites are “screechers,” incredibly unattractive warthog-like creatures, and “hummingbears,” little flying animals whose nests are made of glistening bubbles.

Empathy means seeing with your heart. And books make that possible.

Look for Willodeen on September 7, 2021.

Feiwel & Friends' Description: 

Eleven-year-old Willodeen adores creatures of all kinds, but her favorites are the most unlovable beasts in the land: strange beasts known as “screechers.” The villagers of Perchance call them pests, even monsters, but Willodeen believes the animals serve a vital role in the complicated web of nature.

Lately, though, nature has seemed angry indeed. Perchance has been cursed with fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers, and even the annual migration of hummingbears, a source of local pride and income, has dwindled. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny animals have overwintered in shimmering bubble nests perched atop blue willow trees, drawing tourists from far and wide. This year, however, not a single hummingbear has returned to Perchance, and no one knows why.

When a handmade birthday gift brings unexpected magic to Willodeen and her new friend, Connor, she’s determined to speak up for the animals she loves, and perhaps even uncover the answer to the mystery of the missing hummingbears.

A timely and timeless tale about our fragile earth, and one girl’s fierce determination to make a difference.


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