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The Eagle Tree

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ISBN 9781503936645 has been moved to this edition.
Fourteen-year-old March Wong knows everything there is to know about trees. They are his passion and his obsession, even after his recent falls—and despite the state’s threat to take him away from his mother if she can’t keep him from getting hurt. But the young autistic boy cannot resist the captivating pull of the Pacific Northwest’s lush forests just outside his back door.

One day, March is devastated to learn that the Eagle Tree—a monolithic Ponderosa Pine near his home in Olympia—is slated to be cut down by developers. Now, he will do anything in his power to save this beloved tree, including enlisting unlikely support from relatives, classmates, and even his bitter neighbor. In taking a stand, March will come face-to-face with some frightening possibilities: Even if he manages to save the Eagle Tree, is he risking himself and his mother to do it?

Intertwining themes of humanity and ecology, The Eagle Tree eloquently explores what it means to be part of a family, a society, and the natural world that surrounds and connects us.

262 pages, Paperback

First published May 1, 2016

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About the author

Ned Hayes

16 books261 followers
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Ned Hayes is a voracious reader (and writer) from Olympia Washington, who now lives in Portland, Oregon.

My novel THE EAGLE TREE was a national bestseller, and was named by New York Times bestselling author Steve Silberman as one of the top 5 books on the autistic experience.. The book has also been endorsed by Temple Grandin and many others.

I read in many genres. I especially enjoy historical fiction like Philippa Gregory, Anita Diamant and Hilary Mantel, as well as supernatural historical fiction from Susanne Clarke and Tim Powers. But I also love Annie Dillard, Jorge Borges and Michael Chabon.

I also wrote the historical novel SINFUL FOLK, a book set in the 14th century. The cover of SINFUL FOLK a series of lovely internal illustrations were created by the New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Nikki McClure. SINFUL FOLK was nominated for the "Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award" and received starred reviews from many publications, including BookList.

You can find the rest of my books at Ned Note.com .

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 521 reviews
Profile Image for Laura Cushing.
557 reviews9 followers
April 13, 2016
As a person on the autism spectrum, I especially love books with autistic narrators. I am always a bit wary when they are written by a neurotypical author. Will they write from the martyr parent position, the Rainman, or the Autistic Speaks puzzle piece perspective? Only a few manage the Autistic character as an interesting individual who happens to be autistic, not a stereotype. The author of The Eagle Tree does a splendid job with the character of March Wong, using his special interest in trees to draw us in to the world of the Pacific Northwest and a tree in need of conservation. It is also the story of 14 year old March branching out and becoming more aware of his place in the world,and his interactions with those in it. Loved the story!

In the resources to learn further, I was very pleased to see the author linked to autism self advocacy sites and not autism speaks. He really does get it. Well done.

Read on my kindle fire as my kindle first monthly choice
Profile Image for Melki.
5,801 reviews2,342 followers
April 15, 2016
I believe in trees.

Meet March Wong, a fourteen-year-old autistic boy who is obsessed with trees. If he had his way, he would talk about nothing but trees, and spend his time doing nothing but climbing them. But, this tree-climbing thing isn't sitting too well with everyone else. Neighbors are calling the cops, and his mom is threatening to move him to a treeless town in Arizona. And, if he continues getting injured in his climbing quests, the authorities may take him away from his mother, and put him in an institution. Then one day, he spies the majestic Eagle Tree.

Nothing will keep him from climbing that beauty.

Unless . . .

The tree is on property that has been sold. Property that is going to be forested. If he hopes to save the Eagle Tree, March will have to conquer his fears of public speaking, and learn to communicate and cooperate with others.

I wish I could rate this one higher. It's well written, and I applaud any young adult book that doesn't contain a paranormal love story. BUT - there's just too much tree-talk for me. There is tree history, tree facts, tree names in both Latin and Native American, tree descriptions, tree taxonomy, and on and on and on. I'm a tree-hugger, but I honestly wanted to reach for a chainsaw scream.

It is difficult for me to care about people. But I believe it would be useful for me to keep in mind the idea that we are like trees - all connected at the roots, all touching each other all the time, even though we may not consciously feel those connections or those touches.
Profile Image for David Reviews.
159 reviews211 followers
April 2, 2016
The Eagle Tree by Ned Hays is about an autistic teenager’s love of trees. March Wong is fourteen years old and he lives with his mother, who occasionally struggles to cope with his behaviour. His favourite daily activity is climbing the local trees, with which he is both fascinated and concerned about. A memorable read that takes us sensitively into the mind of an autistic child. March’s frustrations are touching, from a world he perceives doesn’t care about trees as much as he does, to the difficulties he has expressing his affection for his mother are heartfelt.

When March spies a huge tree while climbing his new neighbour’s Red Cedar, his life is changed and his desire to climb the Eagle Tree becomes almost an obsession. But before he can climb it he learns that there are plans for the tree to be cut down as part of new housing development. March plans to make a protest and we are taken through an unusual, while ultimately uplifting story.

The author touches on global warming and other ecological issues through March’s insights and readings. There are a lot of facts about trees, tree pests and how man has influenced the environment. These details really were part of the story and didn’t detract from the emotional family issues or the obsession March has with the Eagle Tree.

I took me a little while to get in to this, but once involved it’s a really enjoyable read that I won’t forget. It’s great to see March develop as a person and see his relationships strengthen. The author makes March’s autistic thought patterns interesting and there is the environmental message, as well some emotional scenes. This was overall a worthwhile read and I’m sure others will think so too.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
703 reviews138 followers
May 17, 2016
I admit it. I have a problem with first person narratives by children. My problem is so great that I could not make it through Jonathan Safran Foer's highly regarded book, EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE.

The EAGLE TREE is narrated by 14 year old Peter March Wong. Peter, or March as he prefers to be called, is autistic. He is preoccupied by trees, so it is fortunate that he lives with his mother in the state of Washington, rather than with his father in Arizona. He describes the surviving old growth forests and the nurse logs from fallen trees that nurture future growth so passionately, it draws the reader into his point of view. These forests are an affirmation of continuity. March not only knows everything about trees, he is obsessed with climbing them. He can no more explain that compulsion than George Mallory could explain why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. Mallory's response to the question sounded visionary. March's response elicits dismay and an ever-growing list of constrictions about which trees he can climb, when he can climb them, and how long he can stay in them. His is no casual passion. He estimates he climbs some 5.6 trees a day, and that's only on average. None of these climbs, however, can compete with the lure of the Eagle Tree. The Eagle Tree is a special case. It rises to a height of perhaps 300 feet. It is ancient. It represents an endangered species, due to the winter survival of ponderosa pine beetles in a warming climate.

The plot moves in two directions. First, there is March's attempt to save the tree when that section of the forest is marked off for development. Second, there is a looming custody hearing to determine if March should be institutionalized. Although March's passion for trees is at times lyrical and persuasive, these two plot scenarios are insufficient to support the length of a novel.

The strength of the book lies in descriptions of March's acute tactile imagery. Here, the mind of the boy and the magical beauty of the trees become one. While he hates touching people, he loves the feel of trees. “I reached down to feel the soil, and I touched the outreaching roots of the trees that bore horizontally and vertically hundreds of feet through the forest. I stroked the earth with my palm, and I could almost feel that invisible network of capillary roots that sucks moisture and nutrients out of every inch of the soil I was standing on. I breathed in and out. I was part of the forest. I was alive.” (Loc. 887) On another walk he thinks: “I felt the bark of the trees on either side of me as I walked. It was very soothing. Here in the LBA Woods, the trees grew very close together and when I did not walk on the path, I would reach out with my fingertips and touch their bark as I passed. The skin of the trees was warm in the sunlight, and rough, and I imagined that each tree contained a soul. Like an Ent. I knew this idea was not a true thing, but still I felt good that the trees were here.” (Loc. 1744) Passages like these made the book worth reading.

Unfortunately, I had THE GOLDEN SPRUCE by John Vaillant and THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME by Mark Haddon in the back of my mind while I read this book. The former is a nonfiction account of the Pacific Northwest forests. The latter is a quasi-mystery narrated by a teen with Asperger's Syndrome. The EAGLE TREE, by comparison, did not carve out a compelling narrative to me. I could not sustain an immersion in the book, and much of the plot was predictable. A focus on the dynamic between March, his mother and his uncle would have strengthened the development of the characters. Instead, we never see the adults in this book except through March's eyes. However, anyone with some interest or background in botany will appreciate the details on forest ecology. I obtained this book for free from the Kindle First program and found it an interesting experiment.
Profile Image for Cathy.
316 reviews
May 19, 2016
I did not finish this book. I could not keep reading it. If you love trees and every bit of information you could possibly dig up about each and every tree, then you will like this book. I thought there was much much too much info about trees and not enough about the story, which I think was about an autistic 14 year old boy who was always hurting himself by climbing trees and was affecting the possibility of him being taken away from his mom.
Profile Image for Becky Kondritz.
683 reviews8 followers
April 4, 2016
Finished this Kindle First book two days after selecting it this month. This novel is narrated by a fourteen-year-old boy with autism. Viewing the world through these eyes was a treasure (especially as a teacher reading this). Loved the ideas of trees, nature, our connectedness with all things, etc.
Profile Image for Tfalcone.
2,136 reviews12 followers
April 2, 2016
I know this is told by an autistic character, but the trees are getting to me, even as a biologist. I did like it, overall 3.5 rating for slow start.
Profile Image for Jen La Duca.
156 reviews47 followers
August 9, 2016
My So-Called Review

The Eagle Tree is the first book I’ve read by author, Ned Hayes and I’d like to start this review by giving a very special thanks to Trish Collins at TLC Book Tours. She contacted me to ask if I’d like to review this book and after reading the synopsis I couldn’t accept fast enough. Although she could not have known it at the time, The Eagle Tree’s subject matter is one I relate to on a very personal level. My oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was 5 and it’s not often that you find fictional stories, TV shows, or movies that portray characters with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) accurately and honestly. So thank you Trish, this is not a book that would have been on my radar had you not contacted me!

The Eagle Tree is the story of an autistic fourteen year old named March Wong and how he connects to the world through his love of trees. He and his mother recently moved to a smaller home and while she’s struggling with his behavior, March is struggling to understand and adapt to these changes. He spends every day climbing the local trees; he knows everything about each species and their ecosystems. While climbing a neighbor’s tree one day March sees a huge tree in the distance and becomes rather obsessed in his need to climb it. He learns that the locals call it the “Eagle Tree” but before he gets the chance to climb it he also learns of the plans to cut down the historic tree to make way for a new housing development. March makes a bold plan to protest the destruction of the beautiful tree but doesn’t realize he could potentially loose something far greater in the process.

Told through the eyes of March, The Eagle Tree is an intimate and respectful look into the mind of someone with autism. I was truly blown away by how well Ned Hayes wrote March’s character. I was completely pulled into this world where the most important thing was a desperate tree in need of salvation. March’s frustrations in expressing himself and making those around him understand and care about the trees he loves so much was equally heartfelt and touching. As the story moves on March begins to grow and mature, he becomes more self-aware which in turn begins to strengthen his personal relationships with those that care for him.

I cannot tell you enough how much I loved The Eagle Tree. I’m not the type of reader who re-reads books and most books that I love tend to fade from my memory soon after I’ve finished them. I think this happens because I read so much and so quickly so the finer details of novels tend to fade or blend together. This book is different though. March’s story is so beautiful and so very special to me and they will both always have a place in my heart for a very long time. I would highly recommend this one to anyone who’s interested in books that have a diverse point of view. I would also recommend it for anyone who’s been touched by knowing someone or caring for someone with ASD.

A huge thank you to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour and for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review!

tlc logo

This review was originally posted on My So-Called Book Reviews

Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,050 reviews204 followers
June 13, 2016
The Eagle Tree by Ned Hayes is a book that I nominated on Kindle Scout like Melophobia and The Lost Tribe. In this case, the author's name was familiar to me. I had reviewed his rather unusual historical mystery, Sinful Folk, on Book Babe.

It seems to me that there was a long delay between the selection of The Eagle Tree for publication by Kindle Press in October 2015 and its recent publication this May. I confess that I forgot that I had nominated it and was entitled to a free copy according to Kindle Scout's rules. So when I first encountered it on Goodreads, I became as enthusiastic as I had been when I nominated it. I then proceeded to purchase it right away on Amazon.

So why did I jump at the chance to acquire The Eagle Tree? It combines two elements that are of tremendous interest to me. The protagonist, Peter March Wong, is an autistic teen. This novel's protagonist is also deeply concerned with climate change and other environmental issues, as am I. I consider The Eagle Tree the most original piece of contemporary fiction that I've ever read about an autist, and it also excels as eco-fiction. It will definitely be among my favorite 2016 reads.

For my complete review see http://shomeretmasked.blogspot.com/20...
Profile Image for Steph.
1,370 reviews
July 17, 2016
Something for everyone in this book. A bit about the environment, family, autism support, single parents, and all set with some Pacific NW vibes. Truly enjoyed this book during a holiday in the Pacific NW.
Profile Image for McKenzie.
202 reviews3 followers
January 4, 2017
2.5 stars

It is very difficult for me to assign a rating to this book, so I felt I should communicate my feelings in writing. The description grabbed my attention because I am very interested in autism, particularly books with autistic narrators. However, the description makes the plot seem much more intriguing than it actually is. I wanted to give up on this book too many times to count, but I trudged on only because the description promised that March, the narrator, would "take a stand" and enlist "unlikely support" in his efforts to save the beloved Eagle Tree. These things barely happened. I would go so far as to say there is almost no plot to this book. Instead, it is a 262 page description of different types of trees.

The only merit to this book -- and the only reason I am giving it a generous 2.5 stars -- is that it is extremely well-written. Having read many books written from the perspective of autistic narrators, I believe this to be the most realistic. Hayes made me feel as though I were truly inside the mind of a young, autistic, tree-obsessed boy, and I think that is quite the feat.

Unfortunately, the writing style and my interest in autism alone were not enough to make this book enjoyable. I apparently also needed to have an obsession with botany and a hatred of plot-driven writing. If all of those traits describe you, give this book a read!
Profile Image for Debbie Carlson.
166 reviews4 followers
April 13, 2016
I selected this book from Amazon First because the reviews were tremendous, but it is not a book that would have ordinarily stood out to me. I was super impressed since most of the Amazon First books seems so amateurish.

The narration from the young boy is done so well that I feel as if I am actually inside a real boy's mind. I especially like how well the author has captured the autistic mind. The only thing that would have made the book better is if he had added sections of the mother with her thoughts and fears about raising her autistic child.

I thought the story was compelling and the writing was well done. There were a couple moments that I felt were unrealistic, or uncharacteristic, but honestly, I could be wrong. I'm an artist and one thing I learned about drawing or painting is that if one accurately portrays a subject, but others are unfamiliar with that subject, they will often assume the artist got the work wrong than believe the validity of the work. For instance, I painted a chocolate lab puppy and hung it at an art fair. People continuously asked me why I had painted the dog's eyes yellow. Astounded, I exclaimed, "Because they ARE yellow."
Profile Image for Amy.
92 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2016
I am a biology teacher and I really like trees, so this book piqued my interest.
I appreciated the insight of Peter March Wong, a 14-year old boy who is on the spectrum and who is a self-made tree expert. Seeing the world through Peter's eyes allowed the reader to experience the world in a different way. The book incorporates a lot of scientific information about trees into the storyline: photosynthesis, carbon fixation, transpiration, carbon "sinks", and the nitrogen cycle, as well as ecological issues such as global warming. But do not let this technical information scare you: the author described processes like photosynthesis in breathtaking beauty, and all of this enabled me to have a true insight into Peter, his great affinity for trees, and the inter-connectedness of Earth. A possible modern fiction partner to Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring".
Profile Image for Mary E. Gilmore.
85 reviews5 followers
April 10, 2016
All thanks to Amazon Prime's Kindle First perk, I was able to read this book prior to its release. The Eagle Tree is narrated by 14 y/o March Wong, an autistic boy with a vast love and knowledge of Pacific Northwest trees. I learned a lot about trees, the marbled murrelet, nature and people—and just how interconnected and interdependent they are. The book also has a lot to teach about autism. Author Ned Hayes based the story on his past experience working with children on the autistic spectrum.

I can confidently say that I'll never look at trees the same way again. This book has touched my heart and soul deeply and won't soon, if ever, leave me.

Would love to see a film adaptation.
Profile Image for Daniel.
272 reviews1 follower
April 14, 2016
A thinker. Is everthing in this book accurate? I don't know. It does it make me excited to learn more about Autism and trees.
Profile Image for Zaz.
1,562 reviews56 followers
August 19, 2019
Following March, a teenage aspi, and his love for trees was interesting. The story depicted well his personality and the difficulties he could have to deal with people or events. Everything was nicely displayed and easy to understand through March's point of view. The supportive cast wasn't really exciting but I appreciated how they tried to be inclusive and to give space to March, so he could be himself. The ecological side also was something I enjoyed, the book addressing important topics like climate change and how it affects trees and insects. As I know almost nothing about the US ecosystem, these parts were pretty interesting. The details about trees were a hit or miss depending the moment: I enjoyed them at the beginning, but at some point it was too much botanical stuff for me, so I skipped some parts. The religious side was light, but it was there and I've no interest in it, so it was another part I mostly skipped. Overall, it was a nice read because of the choice in the main character and the unusual topic.
Profile Image for Anny.
77 reviews45 followers
April 30, 2020
An incredibly tender story of March, the young guy, who loves trees more than anybody else.

I think this book told a very complex story, hidden in-between the lines. At first, I doubted where the book is going, but then the story shaped itself out.

It's also one of the best autism-related books I've ever read and the best one I've read in quite a while. It shows the tediousness related to communication, how someone's loved ones can struggle a bit despite loving their child, but also how special it is. How the thought patterns emerge and ebb and flow and how special interests develop and completely take over. I am very happy that I did not hear some of the stereotypes, which pop up in so many stories, almost as tokens, but are not very telling of the actual personality of the character.

It also leaves a lot of space for reflection and afterthought. And from now on, I will probably pay some more attention to trees around me!
Profile Image for Nicola Michelle.
1,085 reviews5 followers
May 30, 2020
This is a beautiful story, about a boy, March, who is on the spectrum and struggles to connect with the world and communicate with those around him. Except when it comes to trees that is! This book is not only great for writing about a main character with autism, as well as his mother’s struggles with her son and his difficulties but also has a wealth of knowledge about trees and I learnt a fair few facts or two after I’d finished this book!

No two autistic individuals are the same, and I found it interesting getting to know and understand March, along with his thought processes and the way his mind made connections. You can definitely tell the author has experience with those on the spectrum and it is written in a caring, sensitive light on what can be a fairly difficult topic to discuss and write about.

I always have be utmost respect for those who write books like these, shedding a bit of light and spreading more awareness on Autism which can only be a good thing. Really enjoyable book and very well written. Would definitely recommend!
Profile Image for Devon H.
511 reviews2 followers
June 2, 2016
A compelling read, this story will captivate and inspire readers to greater goals. The Eagle Tree is one of the first books in a while for me that has captivated my attention and helped me feel alongside the main character.

Enter March Wong. A teen on the autistic spectrum, March eats, breathes, and sleeps knowledge of trees. He has read science book after science book filled with facts and figures about trees and how to identify them. As a coping mechanism and something to lean on, his uncle, Mike, introduces him to climbing trees and March is hooked. He diligently climbs a minimum of three trees per day, sometimes as many thirty trees.

What is truly fascinating about this book, is that Hayes expertly weaves together the study of human behavior with the study of science in a way that feels effortless even to a reader who has very little knowledge of either trees or autistic behavior. I found myself hanging onto every feeling and emotion that March had, hoping and hoping for progress and feeling each set back as if it were my own. The overarching narrative about global warming and climate change also set a precedence for healthy contemplation. What does an environmentalist look like? Who should be expected to change their behavior to halt global warming?

March experiences everything very literally due to his autism. Hayes employs first person so effectively that readers are privy to the way March views everything. There is little or no narrative that doesn't come from March's perspective and that proves effective for developing readers' feelings for our protagonist. Here's a sample of March's thought processes: "I don't know what a Republican is, or how you can kill education. Education is not a living thing, it is an action that you perform to someone else to give them knowledge. And most of what I learn at ORLA is not knowledge. I have learned all about trees on my own, for example.... They have me do art, even though I am not good at art. And they teach me the history of human beings, for which I cannot see an applicable purpose. I like dates and times to be precise, but the way Mr. Gatek teaches, that appears to be a very small part of human history." March thinks hard about each metaphor and he does improve upon his judgment about when he should or should not tell somebody that they are factually incorrect.

Instead of painting autism as a tragedy, Hayes paints a more complete picture of what an autistic experience can look like. March has good days and bad days, progress and setbacks. His autism does prove to be challenging for himself and his family, but they work with all the behaviors associated with his autism to allow him to successfully communicate with not only his family, but all the people around him.

The conclusion of this book felt a little confusing and jumbled together. I'm not really sure how it all related or how it wrapped up the story. The narrative seemed a little more fantastical than the rest of the book, which mostly felt very literal and factual. This fantastical element was rather a new introduction and made March's story feel rather theatrical because it was so dramatic and improbable. I felt through most of the book that the story line was very believable and authentic, but the ending muddled that for me. I guess the only thing I can suggest would be for you to go read it for yourself and see how you feel about it.

I received a copy of this book as a part of TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Emily.
28 reviews
May 26, 2016
You know, I really wanted to finish this book. I really, really did. But the plot progressed far too slowly and the book was too repetitive to keep me engaged till the end.
The story is written from the point-of-view of a 14-year-old autistic boy who loves everything about trees. He loves counting trees, climbing trees, and talking about trees. And talking even more about trees. Talking about where they grow, when they grow, why they grow, and how they grow, in extremely intricate scientific detail. Because of this, the book read a lot more like a textbook than a novel.
I understand that the author is striving to speak from an "autistic boy's" point of view, but since the author is not autistic himself, I feel that he would have been better off leaving actual autistic authors to write about their own experiences and thought processes than struggling to put himself in an autistic person's shoes.
I find it worrisome that a lot of the people writing favorable reviews for this book have said that it helped them "better understand autism" and even more worrisome that a lot of these people begin these reviews by saying that they are educators who work with autistic students. I would not recommend this book to anyone, ESPECIALLY those who are trying to better understand the way autistic people think. Read literature written by autistic authors if "understanding the autistic mindset" is truly your goal for reading this book.
Profile Image for Kartik Santhanakrishnan.
28 reviews9 followers
April 24, 2016
Looking at the world from the point of view of another person is always interesting. This book goes a step further with a first-person account from a boy somewhere in the autistic spectrum. That, and a crash course in the ecology of the evergreen Pacific Northwest, make this book very compelling. As a novice birder, I loved the references to the marbled murrelet.

The book reminded me of reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time many years ago. A similarly thought-provoking book for those who have read that one.

Thank you Kindle First, for giving this book for free. I would have gladly paid for this book.
Profile Image for Glauber Ribeiro.
276 reviews18 followers
June 1, 2016
This is a book about love and loss. Did you know that it's possible to lose a whole forest, one tree family at a time? Not only possible, it's happening right now and it will continue. The Appalachians will become a desert within a few years. How do you feel about this?

Have you wanted something so much that you were willing to risk your life for it?

I like books that make the feel like i'm inside another person's mind, especially if the mind is very different from my own. March, the narrator of the story, is very good at explaining clearly what he does and why he does it. Ned Hayes' narrative is a tour de force, always staying in character, almost entirely convincing. I've never seen better.
Profile Image for Dale.
86 reviews
May 19, 2016
Maybe it's my work experience in Special Education. Maybe it's just a damned good story. March Wong is a teenage boy with autism. Trees are his special interest and his knowledge is deep. Written in his own words, we learn how he thinks about the world around him. In his efforts to climb a special tree, he learns a lot about how he can form connections with other humans.
I found this story fascinating and engaging. I did tend to tune out on the long sections filled with facts about trees, just as I would if this boy were talking to me, but the story kept pulling me along. Quite an enjoyable read.
Profile Image for vicki honeyman.
202 reviews16 followers
August 15, 2016
read this book....you will thank me.

I became enthralled with the characters voice, a 15 year old autistic boy. His wisdom has stayed with me through the days of reading the story. It is beautifully written, quietly emotional. As a tree and bird lover, the scientific data was fascinating and quite clever in its role in the story. Bravo to the author!
Profile Image for April Geiger.
6 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2016
This is hands down one of the best books I've ever read. It gives great insight into the world of a teenager on the autistic spectrum and his love of trees and how he sees the world related to those trees. There is something for everyone to enjoy about this book that is so well written. I will definitely be looking at more from this author.
Profile Image for Michael Kleiner.
Author 10 books2 followers
June 10, 2017
There is more known about autism than in 1988. That’s when the TV show, St. Elsewhere, about the staff at St. Eligius, an old teaching hospital in Boston, ended a six-year run. In one of the oddest finales to a series, the last scene fades to a silent autistic boy looking at an orb. Since, we did not know much about autism, we were supposed to wonder if the whole series was in the boy’s imagination. It was a disappointing end to a very good show whose cast included Howie Mandel, Ed Begley, Jr., Denzel Washington, William Daniels, David Morse, Mark Harmon, Christina Pickles, Bonnie Bartlett and others.

As I started reading Ned Hayes’ novel, The Eagle Tree, I thought of St. Elsewhere. We are introduced to 14-year old Peter March Wong, known commonly as March, who is on the autism spectrum and living with his mother in Olympia, WA. Hayes does a masterful job creating a captivating and fascinating story with the telling through the eyes and mind of an autistic child.

The book resonates with me because my son has ADHD and is finishing 11th grade and his fifth year at a 5th-12th grade school in suburban Philadelphia, whose students have ADHD, Aspergers or are on the autism spectrum. Most came from previous school situations, where they struggled socially, emotionally, some educationally, and/or were bullied. They thrive in this nurturing environment educationally and socially. I may not know which neurological disorder a student has, but a part of them are all in March Wong and vice versa.

In March, we see the absolute and persistence. I was in the tree for 121 minutes.”

“When I was four years, three months, two weeks, and one day old, my mother and my father and I went to the Hands On Children’s Museum in Olympia. There was an exhibit on trees and fluid dynamics. I spent fifteen hours learning how to control the flow of water.”

March is obsessed with trees. He has taught himself everything about trees: their English and Latin names, genus, strength, needs for sustenance, which trees are native to certain regions, and the dangers of climate change and global warming. In the acknowledgements, Hayes, himself a resident of Olympia, says he is not autistic, but “neurotypical,” and he “may have taken liberties with March’s experience. Any errors must be attributed to me.” Hayes did teach at the Pathways School in Montrose, CA, where the “...students..showed me the glory and insight that can be found from listening closely to people who live with a variety of neurological differences.”

Hayes had to also learn everything about botany. Again, he says any errors should be attributed to him. Errors? Everything March observes about people, his life and environment is turned into a metaphor or symbolism of trees. That’s attributable to the writing ability and understanding of Hayes.

“Trees like this keep me oriented in a storm of things I do not understand.”

“When I am stressed, my arms sometimes move on their own in big flapping motions, as if I might take off, and my hands spin like a hummingbird’s wings. I would like to think that the Eagle Tree cleared the canopy around it the way the flapping of my arms sometimes keeps away other people that I do not want to interact with.”

March’s father has gone to Arizona, where there are no trees to climb. March and his mother move to the “new house with the blue mailbox.” He has a loving Uncle Mike, who takes him to see the trees. Because he has injured himself falling from trees and is not aware of it, a hearing is pending to determine his mother’s ability to care for him. He is not permitted to climb trees at school. Every tree he climbs he works out the plan, how many steps and limbs he must master. March is enamored with the Eagle Tree, a tall, old Ponderosa pine in the LBA Woods he can see from the tree in his yard two miles away. His mother says he cannot climb it until he is 18, which is “three years, six months, two weeks, and five days.”

His support network includes Illsa, the pastor at their church, who studied botany at the University of Washington before turning to the ministry, and her husband, Pierre, who teaches botany at Evergreen State College, and the court-appointed therapist, Rhonda.

The first day at the “house with the blue mailbox” was traumatic with fear at the loss of structure.

“I did not have a schedule or a system for the new house, and my mother had not managed to explain to me clearly what we were doing there. Because we were in a new place, I waited for a new plan. But my mother did not give me a new schedule for after school and for dinnertime and for what we would do after dinner. She said there was no change to our schedule, but I could not see how that could be, because we were in a new place, and I did not know the old schedule... I was unable to find solid footing for my ‘roots’ in our new house—the ground had shifted under me. It was like an earthquake. I felt that there was no one who could shelter me or keep me, except the other trees in the backyard.”

She does not allow him to climb the tree in the yard in the dark, he falls, there is blood all over. A neighbor calls 911, March is taken away for three days, where he is tied up in a bed.

One day, when Uncle Mike takes March to see the Eagle Tree, there is a sign that the trees are going to be cut down for development, pending approval by the city council. Later, when he sneaks out to see the Eagle Tree, he surmises, “But if you do not see a sign, then you do not know what it says, and then you can go past the sign. Therefore, I planned to not see the sign. I would shut my eyes and move through the forest with my eyes firmly shut, and in this way, I would ensure that I did not see the sign, and I would be allowed in the forest and I could get all the way to the Eagle Tree.”

His mother and Uncle Mike debate the risks of March speaking to the City Council, but both are supportive that March should participate. We see March’s “growth” in other areas as he prepares. At his school for children on the spectrum, a boy, Stig, is fascinated with insects, and can push things, as he pushed March down one day. March takes Stig to the Eagle Tree to see if he can push the fence down. They walk back to March’s house, where his mother’s shock to see him bring a friend home is shared by Stig’s father when he picks him up. “He’s never been invited to someone else’s house.”

March also thinks a picture of the Eagle Tree should be handed out to the City Council. Earlier in the school year a classmate had drawn a picture of March in a tree. He had no idea who and it turns out to be the girl sitting in the desk next to him, whose name he didn’t know. He asks Sarah to draw a picture of the Eagle Tree. He’s gained two friends, who come to the meeting.

The night of the meeting, Uncle Mike stands with him. In March’s anxiety he drops the cards, they’re out of order and they can’t find the first card. Any one would panic in that situation. Even though he didn’t say everything he wanted, whatever he said was an accomplishment. He becomes the face of the movement, which Hayes says was actually happening when he was writing the book.

As the book progresses, March mentions how Rhonda has helped him learn to handle things differently. In one instance, she asks, “What makes you different?”
“I can understand things faster than other people. Also, I can climb very well.”
“But many people can climb. Did you know that most people stop climbing trees after the age of nine years old?”
“I am not most people.”

At the custody hearing, his inner thoughts debate his self-esteem and how he will be judged. When Rhonda testifies and talks about March’s knowledge of trees, he is amazed. “I was surprised to discover that she had been listening to everything I said in her office. It is rare that another human being actually hears everything I say and writes it down.”

He imagines the four adjudicators as individual trees. “As I looked at the motions of their heads moving in synchronicity with the wind of people’s words, it occurred to me that if they were really trees, and if these four trees were given the task of judging me, or weighing my relationship with my mother—which is what I thought they were doing—if they were trees, perhaps they would look favorably upon me...I would like to think the trees and I have something in common. Perhaps these people could see that I had something in common with them too...I got the impression that their upper limbs touched on all sorts of complicated parts of the government and were connected to other trees like them, trees that I would never see, and who would never see me for who I really am. But the part of these trees that really mattered to me right now was the roots. Those are the parts of the tree that search through the soil for nutrients and water, and slowly discover what is buried deep underground. I was what was underground here. The majority of who I really am is buried underneath the surface, and no one sees it.”

Now, we did and found a special boy.
Profile Image for Garrett Zecker.
Author 7 books53 followers
October 10, 2017
Peter March Wong is a young man whose sole obsession and love in this world is trees. He knows everything about them, their lifecycle, their latin taxonomy, the threats by global warming, their habitats, and everything he can possibly know. As a boy operating on the autism spectrum, these obsessions have led him to a life where he is as expert as any academic dendrologist but has difficulty balancing these skills with the life and interpersonal skills required to operate independently. The apex of his experience is a drive to climb every beautiful tree he comes across. When a ponderosa pine called The Eagle Tree is threatened by developers, March must use his clever wit and some allies he meets along the way to make sure the tree and its inhabitants last long enough for him to climb it.

This is a surprisingly beautiful, well-written, and well-edited Kindle Scout selection that moved on to be revised, redesigned, and re-released by Amazon's Little A imprint. It received rave reviews by Temple Grandin, Steve Silberman, and Susan Senator for its unflinchingly beautiful portrait of a narrator on the spectrum that makes lasting change in his world. It is clear that Hayes holds high esteem with students with differing abilities, and his acknowledgments refer to the work he has done with students such as March.

I read this book with my eight-year-old over about a month at bedtime. He said... "The Eagle Tree is about Peter who wants to climb and study every tree. He leaves school to do it! Once, a big Ponderosa Pine was blocked off and they wanted to cut it down. Peter wants to save his special tree along with an endangered bird. Read it today!" and went as far as to make a video review of the book you can watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xheJu...

An excellent book that is easily the best Kindle Scout selection I have read thus far. Coincidentally I read this book along with The Rosie Project, and both writers have written similarly beautifully realized three-dimensional characters whose spectrum diagnoses actually benefit the people and the world around them. Hayes has given us a gift.
Profile Image for Nika.
49 reviews18 followers
November 18, 2018
I keep waffling between two stars and three. This may be one of the best books I've read by a neurotypical author that attempts the perspective of an autistic main character, but historically that's something of a low bar.

To be clear, I'm not categorically against neurotypical or alltistic authors writing autistic characters. I value fiction writers who reach beyond their personal experience to respectfully write the Other. It's just that when you're writing from the perspective of the Other, and the story is all about their Otherness, it begs the question: who is this for? That's the question I've been wrestling with since finishing this book.

The Eagle Tree is a largely respectful portrayal of an autistic boy, and much of that portrayal rings true. I very much appreciate that March's autism is presented as an essential part of who he is, and that the way his autism presents (flapping, infodumps, etc) is embedded in its context as how March expresses himself, copes with his emotions and various types of stimulus, and processes the world around him. I appreciate that March doesn't "triumph" over his autism (for the most part), and that he's not being subjected to ABA or other abusive therapies. I appreciate that March gets to be a person rather than an inspiration (again, for the most part).

However. As much as I think readers need to see characters like March living their autistic lives in defiance of the ignorance and stigma spread by groups like A$, I've concluded that this book was written for neurotypical readers. That makes it inherently exploitative, regardless of the author's good intentions and any other positive influence this book may have.

The primary factor that brought me to this conclusion was the portrayal of March's relevance filter. This is my term - like March, I've had difficulty throughout my life determining which people around me require me to take note of them and remember them. My relevance filter has never been set as tightly as March's, but I definitely recognized and related to it, and appreciated that it was part of March's character...right up until page 36. March is describing a classmate whose artistic skills are better than his, whose drawing of a tree he keeps on the wall beside his desk. He describes the drawing and its location, and then breaks for a new paragraph and says, "I do not know the girl's name who drew the tree. We have been in class together for five years."

It's the paragraph break that does it. The paragraph break, and those two sentences sitting alone together as the last lines in the chapter. The empty space on either side of those two sentences is the author's cue for how we're supposed to feel about the content of those sentences. We're supposed to be taken aback - how could you be in class with someone for five years and not know their name?

You know who wouldn't be taken aback by that? An autistic person. I've worked in the same building with people for over ten years and not only not known their name, but also not really been sure how to tell them apart from other coworkers who share similar body types and styles of dress. I wasn't shocked that March knew how long they'd been in class together but didn't know her name, but I was surprised that he presented that information as noteworthy. He likely wouldn't find that any more noteworthy than I would, but the author clearly feels differently, and expects his readers will, too. Which I guess they might, if they're neurotypical.

March's developing friendships with the classmate who drew the tree and another autistic kid who's made it through March's relevance filter enough to get a nickname but not enough that March knows his actual name become a plot point. The friendship plot specifically is where this book veers dangerously close to disability porn for me. March goes about forming these connections in his standard matter-of-fact manner, but since he's not exactly going to present us with the emotional punch of how groundbreaking this is for him, the author makes sure we get it through an excess of the neurotypical gaze. His uncle, mother, and teacher all let us know what an achievement this is, and cue us on how proud we should be feeling of March.

Part of the problem is that we're getting these developing friendships from March's perspective, but despite what all the NT grownups in his life are saying, these new connections don't seem to actually impact him much. I get how this might have been tough for the author to write, since March has difficulty identifying and processing his emotions, but I found myself wondering why March didn't seem to notice any differences between talking with Stig and talking with Rhonda, or his teacher, or any of the other neurotypicals in his life. In my experience (and that of other autistics I've talked with), there's a certain relief in talking to another autistic person, even if you don't have much in common beyond autism. There's this feeling of finally, someone who says what they actually mean. After all the work March has put in trying to interpret his mother, shouldn't it feel like something to talk to someone who doesn't demand interpretation?

The other thing that rubbed me really wrong was something March's mother says towards the end of the book. March was identified in the newspaper as a local disabled boy, and March's mom says, "The only thing I dislike about the article is that it called you 'disabled,' and that's not an accurate description...That's not how I think of you."

Okay, lady. I guess you can think of your kid however you want, but the world definitely sees March as disabled. The world just put you through a hearing to determine if March was too disabled to remain in your custody. This is the world March has to live in, so telling March that it's inaccurate to describe him as disabled isn't doing him any favors. Also, "that's not how I think of you" is a phrase loaded with poison for lots of disabled folks on and off the spectrum. "That's not how I think of you" is about you and your own biases and preconceptions.

Non-disabled folks, please never say "That's not how I think of you" to the disabled people in your lives. How you think of us doesn't change the reality of our lives, and when you say that, you're just telling us that our disability makes you uncomfortable.

March doesn't react to it, and the author doesn't cue us on how we should take it, so the line comes across as having the author's tacit approval. Another sign that as an autistic person, I'm not the intended audience for this book.

The next time I pick up a book about an autistic character and their experience of autism, I'm definitely checking the author bio first. If the author's not autistic, I don't need to read it. Not right now, and not for a while. If it's about me, I need it to also be for me. I don't think that's too much to ask.
Profile Image for Steffy.
287 reviews38 followers
January 16, 2019
"I think I have learned something about falling. It is not necessary to have a plan, sometimes you can simply act. This is an idea I can hold on to."

Trees here, trees there and oh, more trees! This book talks a lot about trees, a lot!
Hayes did such an amazing job on creating this character, March Wong, who's on the autism spectrum. No cliched stereotype but a person so special and interesting, with a great fascination for trees, it drew me in immediately to see the world through his eyes.

Hayes mentioned issues such as global warming, climate change and other ecological issues and he did it with such expertly skills, it was effortless to read, even when you don't know that much about trees. I was amazed by how well the character March was written. Reading about his frustrations and following his thoughts was touching and heartfelt and I felt every emotion he had.

March was so precious, I wanted to squeeze him! I was rooting for him and was boasting with pride for all the progress he's made. Not with the Eagle Tree only but also the friendships he's made, with each chapter learning more about himself and stepping little by little out of his comfort zones, growing and thriving just like trees.

"Can't it be enough that I wanted something so badly that I was willing to risk my life to make it happen?"
Yes March, yes! And you did it and I'm incredibly proud of you!
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