The Listening Tree by Celia Barker Lottridge (Red Cedar Club 2012)

It’s the 1930’s on the Canadian Prairie. After five years of no rain, Ellen’s father left the farm to search for work out west. A year later Ellen and her mother headed east on the train to Toronto to stay with her mother’s sister, Aunt Gladys.
Aunt Gladys runs a boarding house where Ellen and her mother are made welcome.  Toronto is a strange and active environment compared to Ellen’s quiet, solitary life on the prairie farm.  It takes her a while to adjust to these new surroundings.  
There are children living next door, but Ellen is too uncomfortable to go and introduce herself.  After she has finished her morning chores of dishes and feeding the chickens, she climbs out her bedroom window and onto a large tree limb.  There in that world of rustling green, she listens to the goings on of the world below.
Then one day she overhears a couple of men plotting to evict the neighbors.  She is forced to finally connect with Charlotte, Joey and Gracie, the children she has been listening in on, to tell them what she has heard.  Then it is up to the children to come up with a plan to save Ellen’s new friends’ family.

I liked this book. The characters were beautifully portrayed.  It alludes to, but doesn’t address the harsher realities for many families at this time, but it does introduce younger readers to aspects of history in an enjoyable way.
Up until this book, my favorite novel by Celia Barker Lottridge has been Ticket to Curlew, another historical novel that turned many of my grade three/four boys into readers. I hope The Listening Tree has the same effect on my Red Cedar Club readers today.

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