March Wong is a fourteen year old tree expert. He is a young man who believes more in trees than he does in people. He’s comfortable around trees, he knows them all by their true names and he climbs them all. March is more at home in the limbs of a tree than he is in the arms of his family. March is a young man on the autism spectrum and you are immersed immediately into his mind, a glimpse of what it may be like for someone on the spectrum.
March and his mother live in the Pacific Northwest and have just recently moved into a new house. You go through his struggle to learn a new routine and learn a new house. His one saving grace, the trees. He quickly learns all the trees near his home and while climbing his neighbor’s tree, he makes an amazing discovery. He spots an enormous tree in the nearby forest, a huge Ponderosa Pine, known as the Eagle Tree. A tree that doesn’t normally grow in the area, but somehow has thrived and dwarfs the forest surrounding it. March decides right then and there that he must climb this tree.
Unfortunately, the land around the tree has been bought by developers who want to level the area and build homes and other infrastructure. While March doesn’t fully understand the meaning of the developers and the notion of buying land, he knows one thing, he needs to save the Eagle Tree. With the help of his family, friends and teachers, March comes up with a plan to save the tree that he has come to love and that he’s desperate to climb, even if it means that he will be taken from his mother.
I really enjoyed large portions of this book. I enjoyed learning how March’s mind worked and how he processed the world around him and tried to fit in, but in his own way. The interactions between March and the world around him felt authentic as did the characters who were in and out of his life. The bond that he has with his family is strong, but you also see the tough side of that relationship, where the stress shows through. The love is there, but you can tell how hard it is for everyone as they struggle to understand one another.
The book is also a very huge lesson in ecosystems and global warming and how we are destroying our planet as we destroy the forests. While this was incredibly interesting and informing, at times, it felt like it was being shoved down my throat repeatedly. I think that was the least appealing aspect of the book. I understand the need for it and fully support the efforts being waged on behalf of the environment, but there were times that it felt preachy.
This was a very good book and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves trees, the environment and anyone who is curious to see what life looks like for someone who is on the autism spectrum.