just no

Book Banning Just Stooped To A New, Absolutely Bonkers Low

A 2017 novel, 'Wishtree,' about a tree with male and female reproductive parts, is at the center of the debate.

Colors Hunter - Chasseur de Couleurs/Moment/Getty Images / Amazon

Floyd County schools in Virginia have suspended a mass reading program that’s been in effect for years, after complaints flooded in over a children’s book selected in the current semester.

Several parents accused the book’s message of promoting transgenderism and nonbinary pronouns. The youth novel in question is Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller first published in 2017.

The story is narrated by a monoecious oak tree named Red. The issue? Red oak trees have reproductive parts that can pollinate and flower simultaneously. In the book, the tree claims an identity that is “both” female and male and responds to diverse pronouns.

“Call me she. Call me he. Anything will work,” the tree narrates.

To be clear, trees have four primary systems of reproduction. And yes, it is confirmed that some trees have both male and female flowers and can self-pollinate under the right circumstances. And some plants sport male and female plant genitalia in the same flower. Also to be clear, trees are not humans.

News of the very scary, biologically accurate tree spread fast throughout the county once parents started to post their gripes online.

Parent Jodi Farmer, whose children attend a private Christian academy in neighboring Carroll County, posted on Facebook to inform Floyd County residents about the reference in Wishtree that mentioned gender.

Farmer called the book "indoctrination at its finest."

An email was sent out to families from FCPS, noting they had heard the concerns from parents and were suspending the reading program.

“We understand and respect the concerns raised by members of the community regarding certain material within the selected book,” the email read. “After careful consideration, we decided to suspend the One Division, One Book reading event. Families are welcome to continue reading the book on their own, but schools will not be hosting any corresponding activities.”

You know how conservative parents are always like, “What’s next?! Kids identifying as TREES? This is all too much!”

Now they’re literally upset about a fictional, talking tree from a book that’s just hanging out in a forest.

Katherine Applegate, the author of Wishtree, couldn’t actually believe her book was up for debate.

“My first reaction was laughter, because it seemed like satire — it could be a story in The Onion,” she said. “But of course there is nothing funny about the real motivation, which is bigotry against LGBTQ people.”

“The irony is that Wishtree is about community and kindness and tolerance,” Applegate added.

She said she wrote Wishtree in response to the “othering of whole communities” of immigrants and people of color in the mid-2010s. In the novel, townspeople in an unnamed U.S. neighborhood write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to the branches of Red, an oak tree two centuries old.

Applegate expressed disappointment that the reading program and Wishtree were dismissed with “no explanations, nothing concrete” from FCPS.

She noted “the fear school boards face” when book challenges put them on the defensive, while also mentioning FCPS’s “next school board meeting is April 8 — maybe I’ll stop by and say hi.”

Anyway, you can buy your own copy of Wishtree right here!