Willodeen has a straightforward philosophy when it comes to her love of animals: “the scarier, the smellier, the uglier, the better.” The 11-year-old especially loves the screechers that everyone else in her village of Perchance despises because of their appearance (hideous, with sharp teeth and claws), smell (“as ferocious as an outhouse in August”) and behavior (noisy and irritable). Still, Willodeen is convinced that screechers play an irreplaceable part in the village ecosystem and that they are just as important as any other creature, even the precious hummingbears, whose annual migration makes tourists flock to Perchance.
But this year, something is wrong. Not a single hummingbear has returned to the village, and Perchance is experiencing natural disasters as well, including fires, mudslides and drought. What could have upset the balance of nature and caused these strange occurrences? Willodeen, her new friend Connor and a magically handcrafted, wholly original new creature may be the only ones who can restore order to Perchance. Along the way, they might even prove to the villagers once and for all that every creature matters.
Willodeen is an endearing fable that illuminates the importance of recognizing that all living things serve a purpose in our beautifully complex world and are worthy of care and dignity. Author Katherine Applegate excels in writing animal stories, such as her Newbery Medal-winning The One and Only Ivan, that remind us of the essential role nature plays in our lives. In Willodeen, she gracefully demonstrates how this connection brings with it a responsibility to care for the environment—even its less glamorous parts—and why we should treat this responsibility as a gift.