The mulberry tree by Allison Rushby
Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781760650202
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Supernatural, Friendship, Depression (mental health). When Immy (short for Imogen) and her family, dad, a doctor on sabbatical and mum a cardiologist working for a year at Cambridge, look for a place to live, they have fixed ideas. Wanting a thatched cottage within commuting distance of Cambridge and a garden proves hard to find, but driving past a place called Lavender Cottage, Immy calls the reluctant estate agent to stop, as the place seems to have all the right characteristics. Once inside, the garden with its huge old mulberry tree seems to call her, but when she arrives at school the Monday after they move in, she learns the stories of the place, that girls turning eleven are taken by the tree. As it is her eleventh birthday next month she is a little concerned, but the bullying by the trio of girls is put aside as she and another school newbie, Riley investigate the stories about the tree.
With her father's depression resulting from his perceived part in the death of two people back in Australia, Immy finds it hard to maintain patience with his illness. Her anger boils, and she realises that the tree too has issues and is angry, and she must find out why. Her eleventh birthday looms, with the family inviting friends along for a party in the garden. Many refuse the invitation, shocked at the family's refusal to believe the legend of the tree, but as Saturday looms, the readers' interest deepens.
I loved Rushby's "The turnkey" (2017) with its overlay of the supernatural seeming as natural as any life lived in a cemetery can be, and this book too with its nuance of being able to communicate with the tree and the disappearance of two girls, will hook readers into its world. Classroom ideas are available.