My second grader has found herself in a reading rut. Unless the book is about fairies, princesses, or horses she’d not interested. The thing is, I think she’s getting bored with the limitations she has put on her reading, but she doesn’t know how to find her way out. She has been coming home from the school library with books she isn’t interested in because she’s required to check out something, but doesn’t have enough time to find it. Those books sit untouched for a week until she can take them back and try again. This is not good for her little reading psyche. When this happens, I take her to the public library with lots of time to spend and we browse. I pull titles, read synopses, and try to entice her to try something new. This requires a lot of patience. It’s hard to get across to a seven-year-old that not every book is going to be a winner, but great books are only discovered through trial and error. She doesn’t realize we take something from every book we read, even if it is a stinker.
A couple of weeks ago I was reaching the end of my rope after she had rejected every single book I suggested, when I came across a pretty green spine. Desperate for an idea, I slid the book from its spot on the shelf simply because it was my favorite color. A cute, little duck standing on a branch greeted me from the cover. Then I saw the title: The Worry Tree by Marianne Musgrove. My heart beat a little faster as I flipped open the cover to read the blurb inside. I’m a worry wart, and C is becoming one. I was immediately enchanted by the idea of a painted tree full of animals ready to listen to our worries. Thankfully, C was intrigued as well.
We started The Worry Tree as soon as we got home and fell instantly for the realistic main character, Juliet, and her all too real family and friends. Her troubles were common to late elementary age children: fighting parents, an annoying sibling, friend drama, bullies, and a grandma fighting the aging process. Throughout the book, Juliet learned to share her problems with the worry tree animals and hang them on their branches as a symbol of letting go. She began to sleep easier at night, her persistent stress rash flared less often, and the space between eyebrows was smooth.
Though Juliet was making progress her family wasn’t. The fighting came to a head one night over dinner in a row that sent her crying to her room convinced all the trouble was her fault. She even offered to give up her room and the worry tree if it would restore peace to the household. This opened her parents eyes to her stress, and they came to her with a beautiful message: not every problem in this world was hers.
I almost cried when I read this section to my precious daughter last night. The message was as applicable to me as it was to her. We stopped and talked about it a bit. It gave me pause, perhaps before I go off the deep end worrying about things, I should ask myself if the issue is really mine for the handling. I know I will be surprised by how many things do not require my energy. I also gave C permission to come to me or Brett when she’s worried so we can work together to decipher if it is something she can truly let go of.
I recommend The Worry Tree to children and adults. Musgrove created a book with a message we all need to hear during a time when stress runs high in our world.