Ida B. Applewood (not to be confused with her mother, Ida Applewood) lives in a world where everything is pretty near perfect. Her parents love her, and she loves them. The three of them live on a beautiful Wisconsin farm with lots of land, an apple orchard and a brook. And she has Rufus, a slobbery dog, to keep her company. Ida B has plenty of time to be alone, and she relishes being able to talk to the trees (whom she has named) and share her plans.

One thing she doesn't plan on, though, is that her wonderful world might change. Even when Viola, her favorite tree, tells her that hard times are coming, Ida B's natural optimism dismisses the prediction. But, bad times are coming with a vengeance, and when they do, she will have to face them.

Ida B reacts bravely at first when her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer and begins chemotherapy. She chips in with the chores, reining in her exuberance and tiptoeing around the house when her mother is resting. She understands her mother's mood swings and her father's anxiety. But when her father tersely informs her that their family has to sell a portion of their property (including some of Ida B's favorite trees) to pay medical bills, Ida B can take no more. Ida B's anger turns her heart cold as she faces these changes. Where she had once been a thoughtful and joyful child, she stubbornly refuses to speak more than a few sentences with her mother, father and even her open-hearted teacher. She refuses the overtures of her classmates and takes no comfort in nature and the trees that had once sustained her.

What makes this novel so memorable is the strong, honest voice of Ida B herself. First-time author Katherine Hannigan creates a narrator who is smart and spirited, yet complicated. When the going gets extremely rough, she is at her worst: alone, bitter, selfish and seething. But, under all her self-imposed hatefulness, she is still Ida B, finding her own way. Young readers will share this book with each other, and those of us who get to share books with young readers will find ourselves buying extra copies so we'll have enough to go around.

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