Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate, is one of my favourite middle grade books from 2017. It tells the story of Red, an oak tree, and Samar, a young Muslim girl. When Samar's family is made to feel unwelcome, Red makes it her mission to find the girl a friend.
In Wishtree, Applegate approaches the question of how people become part of a community. Her description of the initial distrust faced by Samar's family feels like an accurate one, as is Samar's initial loneliness. This alone could help build empathy for newcomers, but Applegate takes it step further. She uses Red's long life to make a striking comparison between an immigrant of the past and Samar. In today's landscape, this comparison is particularly relevant and leads to a truly heartfelt and powerful conclusion.
My grade six and seven students have been enjoying the book's message too, as it rarely spends much time on the shelf in my classroom library. The book is ideal for late elementary and early middle school. I would particularly recommend Wishtree for any literature circle themes of kindness and welcoming diversity.