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The Secrets of Tree Taylor    by Dandi Daley Mackall order for
Secrets of Tree Taylor
by Dandi Daley Mackall
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2014 (2014)

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Dandi Daley Mackall's The Secrets of Tree Taylor portrays the coming of age of thirteen-year-old Tree as she learns that everyone around her is keeping secrets, some of them much happier ones than others.

It's the summer of 1963 in Hamilton, Missouri and Tree's mind is firmly fixed on two objectives - to enjoy her first real kiss, and to write an investigative article that will win her the freshman reporter spot on Hamilton High's newspaper. So when she hears a rifle shot, she follows her father (a physician) down the block. What she then sees does not jibe with what is reported about the Kinney shooting ('Accidents happen'), so Tree keeps digging, earning her dad's rare disapproval.

At the same time, Tree's father starts speaking out in public against the Vietnam war, earning community disapproval. And Tree, who collects writing quotations (and shares them with readers), starts receiving anonymous notes - from whom? Gradually Tree befriends Mrs. Kinney, while secrets are steadily unveiled about folk all around her - including her parents and sister Eileen, her lifelong buddy Jack, best-friend-who-was-a-girl Sarah, and her new friend Penny.

Tree's dad tells her that 'once you unwrap a secret, whatever you choose to do with what you uncover - that becomes your responsibility' - sage advice. She uses her new knowledge well, and that first kiss, though unexpected, happens. The Secrets of Tree Taylor is a charming YA novel that will bring back the sixties to anyone who lived through them - and give a feel of what life was like then to those who did not.

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