"'The Secret Tree' takes its rightful place in the now classic genre of 'neighborhood kids' that began with Beverly Cleary.... From a child, there is no higher praise than, 'The ending was satisfying.' And this one is. 'The Secret Tree' is a welcome addition to the canon....These children are far too real to let their captivating tales end here."
Minty’s neighborhood is full of mysteries.
There’s the Witch House, a spooky old
farmhouse on the other side of the woods
from where Minty and her best friend, Paz,
live. There’s the Man-Bat, a seven-foot-tall
half man, half bat who is rumored to fly
through the woods. And there are the Mean
Boys, David and Troy, who torment Minty for
no reason, and her boy-crazy older sister,
Thea, who acts weirder and weirder.
One day Minty spots a flash in the woods,
and when she chases after it, she discovers
a new mystery – a Secret Tree, with a hollow
trunk that holds the secrets of everyone in
the neighborhood. Secrets like:
Raymond, a new boy, is also drawn to the
Secret Tree, and together he and Minty start
watching their neighbors. They have a curse
to fix, and mysteries to solve. But first they
have to get through some secrets of their
own . . . secrets that will end up changing
*"Filled with summertime warmth and a neighborhood full of characters that readers will wish lived next door, Standiford’s (Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters) story delights and satisfies....The intimate neighborhood setting—with its mysteries, superstitions, and traditions—the authenticity of Minty’s voice, and her worries about the transitioning nature of her life and friendships give Standiford’s story a richness that will stay with readers."
"Universal anxieties about growing apart from friends are expressed with such earnest clarity that middle school–bound readers will take comfort from Minty’s discovery that everyone has insecurities and must cope the best way they can. Standiford’s charming and mysterious story of friendship, growing up, and keeping secrets rests squarely on the shoulders of an immensely likable protagonist who possesses a delightful oddness, like so many imaginative children in real life."
— Courtney Jones, Booklist
"Standiford, a Baltimore native, wrote one of the best young-adult novels of the past five years, How to Say Goodbye in Robot, a lovably eccentric, cliche-averse tale of teenage love and friendship. This is her first book for middle-grade children, and it's similarly offbeat and warm. The story involves Minty Mortimer (aka Minty Fresh), a pint-sized roller-derby enthusiast and intrepid spy, as she stealthily navigates a secret world of adolescent confusion and adult responsibility in her Catonsville neighborhood. She peeks inside the houses and lives of those around her and discovers that 'They all have their secrets. Each person's real life is a mystery.' Ultimately, Minty looks inside herself and embraces those mysteries, while working to right the wrongs she encounters along the way. She rolls toward a happy ending and, like a friend and derby mate, definitely Pax A. Punch."
--John Lewis, Baltimore Magazine
Standiford is one of my favorite authors, and this middle-grade story, which follows Minty and her increasingly distant best friend Paz through the summer before middle school, is just lovely. Standiford has a melancholy voice that echoes perfectly through this tale about growing up.
"Middle-school dynamics, pesky sibling relations, a rumored haunted house, some truly heart-wrenching situations and a mystery all combine to make this coming-of-age novel an engrossing read."
"Standiford ventures into middle grade with lovely results, perfectly capturing the feel of summer. Minty is a great heroine, feisty, relatable and fun. Sometimes it seems as if there aren’t any stories about regular girls in YA today, but Standiford’s got it covered, thank goodness!"
"In Standiford’s wise and entertaining novel, spying is an imaginative exercise, similar to what children’s psychiatrist Robert Coles has defined as moral intelligence, a 'willingness to see the world as others saw it, to experience the world through someone else’s eyes, and to act on that knowledge with kindness.'"