4 Stars

Araminta Mortimer, Minty for short, lives in the sleepy town of Catonsville where kids play in the street, and everyone knows each other’s names; and where there are rumors of a witch living in the old rotting farmhouse on the other side of the woods, and a man-bat (half man, half bat) living in the woods – and where everyone has a secret.

During the summer before starting middle school, Minty’s thoughts are all about roller derby. She and her best friend, Paz, dream of someday being a part of the Catonsville Nine, the local roller derby team. They are excited about performing their roller derby routine in the Fourth of July Parade. But things don’t always work out the way we plan. As Paz turns her attention to a new group of girls – girls who do not like roller derby – Minty befriends a strange boy who is living in an abandoned model home on the other side of the woods. Together, Minty and Raymond discover The Secret Tree. The legend of the Secret Tree states that if a tree has a good, deep hole in its trunk, a ghost can live inside it, feeding on secrets. Secret-keepers put their secrets in the hole, the ghost eats them, and soon those people are free. Inside a deep hole in a tree deep in the woods between Minty’s home and Raymond’s, the two discover the town’s secrets written on pieces of paper. Secrets like:

I put a curse on my enemy. And it’s working.
I’m betraying my best friend in a terrible way.
No one loves me except my goldfish.

Minty and Raymond are determined to find out whom the secrets belong to. As they uncover Catonsville’s mysteries, they help to free their friends and neighbors from curses, sabotage, loneliness, and so much more.

The Secret Tree is a delightful read for children ages 7-10. It is often times predictable, but perhaps not as much for younger readers. Minty is determined to not only figure out which secrets belong to whom, but also to fix the problems, heal the hurts. Her mission is noble. The underlying story of a friendship struggling during a season of change is one that all preteen readers will be able to relate to.