The Worry Tree

The Worry Tree

by Marianne Musgrove

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Juliet's a worrywart, and no wonder! Her little sister, Oaf, follows her around taking notes and singing "The Irritating Song" all day long. Her parents are always arguing about Dad's clutter. Nana's so tired of craft lessons that she starts barbecuing things in the middle of the night. And Juliet's friends Lindsay and Gemma are competing to see which of them is her best friend. Juliet can't fit in any more worries!

But then she makes a remarkable discovery. Behind the wallpaper in her new bedroom, Juliet uncovers an old painting of a very special tree. Nana remembers it well: it's the Worry Tree, and with the help of the Worry Tree animals, Juliet just might be able to solve some of life's big problems.

The Worry Tree is a 2009 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429939379
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date: 09/16/2008
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
File size: 472 KB
Age Range: 7 - 10 Years

About the Author

MARIANNE MUSGROVE has worked as a social worker, and has had both poetry and short stories published. This is Marianne's first novel. She lives in South Australia.

Marianne Musgrove has worked as a social policy writer, social worker, and museum guide for children. She has had both poetry and short stories published, and several of her short stories have won literary awards. She is the author of The Worry Tree and Lucy the Good. She lives in South Australia.

Read an Excerpt

The Worry Tree

By Marianne Musgrove

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 2007 Marianne Musgrove
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-3937-9


Juliet Jennifer Jones opened the door, stepped out of the bathroom, and walked straight into her little sister.

"Eight minutes and forty-seven seconds," said Ophelia, clicking her stopwatch. "What were you doing in there?"

"Mom!" shrieked Juliet. "Oaf's timing me in the bathroom again!"

When there was no reply, Juliet stomped out of the room.

Ophelia, also known as Oaf, smiled quietly to herself, pulled out a yellow pad of paper, and carefully wrote 8:47 in the left-hand column. Then she tucked the notepad back into her pocket and went off to find her sister.

Juliet stormed through the house looking for an adult. She went into the living room, but Mom had her nose in her favorite Shakespearean play.

"Give me five more minutes," said Mom, "and then I will speak to thee, I mean, I'll speak to you."

Juliet rolled her eyes and went in search of Dad.

Dad was in the laundry making a model volcano, and she couldn't get him to talk about anything other than lava, ash, or explosions. She frowned and went in search of Nana.

Nana lived in the apartment down in the back garden, but when Juliet got there, all she found was a note taped to the door: Gone to craft class. This week: macramé pot holders!

Juliet turned around, huffing. Oaf was standing behind her singing a song she'd learned on the playground that week. It was called "The Irritating Song," and you just kept chanting it over and over like this:

Irritating, irritating,
It's the song you'll end up hating
Just 'cause it's so irritating.

That was the first verse. The second verse went like this:

So frustrating, so frustrating,
So frustrating-strating-strating,
It's the song you'll end up hating
Just 'cause it's so
[clap] frustrating.

The other twenty-two verses continued on in pretty much the same vein. Oaf really liked that song.

"Irritating, irritating ..."

Juliet gritted her teeth. She could feel her skin itching and prickling.

Oh, no, she thought. It's starting again.

Juliet was cursed with a nervous rash, which flared up whenever she was stressed. It started shortly after Oaf was born (no coincidence as far as Juliet was concerned) and had continued on and off for the last seven years.

"Irritating-tating-tating ..."

Juliet ducked past her sister, down the long hallway, past the Room That Must Be Locked When Visitors Come, and into the bedroom she shared with Oaf. She shut the door firmly behind her and sank down on the floor. Now she was safe. Sort of. She gazed up at a sign on her wall. Mom had made it especially for her. I AM A CAPABLE PERSON WHO CAN HANDLE ANY CRISIS, it said. Juliet said these words over and over when she was feeling upset. She tried to say them now, but Oaf was singing on the other side of the door and it was putting her off.

"It's the song you'll end up hating ..."

Juliet bit her thumbnail. Didn't she have enough to worry about? Dad always in a muddle, Mom working long hours, Nana refusing to wear her safety alarm. ... It was extremely hard work running a family when you were only ten. And then there was Hugh Allen. ...

"Just 'cause it's so irritating ..."

Juliet's rash spread like foot soldiers, straight up her arms and back down her legs. She had to do something before she was driven completely mad. There was only one thing for it.

Sorting. That's what Juliet did to relax. While others lit candles, played music, and took warm baths, Juliet sorted through the many strange collections she kept in her bedroom. For the record, she owned

* an eraser collection (143 in total);

* a dried-cicada-shell collection (numbering fifty-one);

* a book filled with license plate numbers (any car that parked in Juliet's street was recorded in this book);

* ribbons for perfect attendance at school (twelve at last count);

* a box of used bus tickets (sixty-seven as of Tuesday);

* Piranha, her Venus flytrap.

She also had a row of tiny cactus plants she'd been collecting since the spring. She liked the way they kept growing even without the rain. She liked the way they managed on their own.

Juliet pulled out a bright blue box. Written on the lid in thick silver marker were her initials: JJJ, just like three fishhooks in a row. Juliet kept her collection of teeth inside, lying on white cotton wool, just so they'd be comfortable.

How should I sort them today? she wondered. Color (white, whitish yellow, yellowish white, gray), shape (fat and square, sharp and pointy, those with fillings, those with holes), or owner (Dad, Oaf, herself, or her best friend, Lindsay)?

She sat down on the carpet, crossed her legs neatly, and balanced the box on her lap. "I think shape," she said. She took hold of the lid and lifted it up. She looked inside. The teeth were not there! Juliet's mind raced to one grim conclusion: "Oaf!"

Shortly afterward, Mom found the two sisters arguing in the bedroom.

"Why can't you leave my things alone?"

"Mm?" said Oaf.

"I know you took my teeth."


"Yes, teeth! The ones from my collection!"

"Ohhhh, thoooose," said Oaf. "I borrowed them to make a set of false teeth."


"With some modeling clay."


"And some Super Glue."

Juliet's skin itched like mad. She let out a long, loud shriek.

"All right, girls," said Mom. "No more fighting today. It's not helpful."

As a psychologist, Mom had a great understanding of Conflict and Sibling Rivalry, which is another way of saying fights between sisters.

"But, Mom —" began Juliet.

"I mean it, you two. Shouting and screaming won't solve a thing. I think it's time the three of us sat down and talked things through."

Juliet and Oaf groaned. Talking Things Through was never a pleasant experience.

"I reckon she's going to make us Name Our Feelings," muttered Oaf.

Please, no, thought Juliet.

"I've been thinking things over," said Mom, "and I've decided we should all name our feelings."

Oaf raised an eyebrow. "Told you," she said.

The girls had been through this naming exercise before. The idea was to say things like "I feel X when you do Y." For example, "I feel angry when you lick all the cookies, then put them back in the package" (message from Juliet to Oaf) or "I feel frustrated when you follow me around with binoculars taking notes" (another message from Juliet to Oaf).

"So, girls," said Mom, looking from one daughter to the other, "who wants to go first? Anyone? Anyone at all? No? Well, all right then, why don't I start things off?"

Mom settled herself on the carpet and folded her hands. "When you girls fight and shout at each other, I feel upset and frazzled, and the noise makes me feel tense and unhappy. Now," she said, turning to Juliet, "what do you have to share with us, Worrywart?"

Oaf pricked up her ears. "Juliet has warts? We should probably all wear flip-flops in the shower."

Juliet's skin throbbed. She was very, very tired of Oaf and her so-called Humor. Maybe it was time she named some of her feelings.

"When Oaf," she said, looking down at the empty box, "takes my things without asking, again and again and again and again, I feel like punching her in the face."

"Juliet!" said Mom. "That's not in the spirit of the exercise."

Juliet crossed her arms.

"All right, then. Oaf," said Mom, "you name your feelings."

Ophelia looked thoughtful.

"Wendy and Brian," she said.

"Very funny, Oaf," said Mom, looking exasperated. "You know that's not what I meant. I think we'll skip the naming exercise today. What you two really need are your own rooms."

"Really?" said Juliet. "But doesn't that mean —"

"Yes," said Mom. "It does. Hold on to your hats, girls!"

Juliet wondered how long she would have to hold on to her hat. Twenty-four hours had passed, and so far nothing had happened. She decided to check her To Do list in order to keep calm.

Clean teeth — ten seconds per tooth [check]

Brush hair — 100 times [check]

Put on Sunday underwear, Sunday sandals, Sunday T-shirt, and Sunday shorts [check]

Put Band-Aids on fingers to stop biting nails [check]

Find Oaf — remove stopwatch [check]

Eat breakfast — 100 cornflakes, one glass of milk [check]

Make sure Nana hasn't fallen over in the night [check]

Tidy sock drawer [check]

Feed Piranha

"Right," said Juliet. "Time for Piranha's lunch."

"Need me to catch some flies?" said Oaf. She could often be found stalking around the house crouched low with a plastic flyswatter raised above her head.

Juliet nodded. There were never enough flies in their bedroom. Her Venus flytrap was very fond of them. More a pet than a plant, Piranha would sit still, waiting to pounce, then the moment a fly landed in one of his traps — snap! — it was gone. There was something exciting about having a dangerous creature living in your bedroom.

"Some more supplies'd be good," said Juliet.

"That'll be ten cents a fly."

"It used to be five!"

"The dollar isn't what it used to be," said Oaf, climbing off her bed. As she looked for her flyswatter, a burst of loud talking came from the hallway.

"Do I have to, Karen? Really? Please don't make me do it!"

Uh-oh, thought Juliet. It's begun.

The girls went out to investigate. As expected, they found Dad standing in front of the door of the Room That Must Be Locked When Visitors Come. His long, thin arms and legs were stretched out as if he were doing a star jump. Mom was tugging on his sleeve.

"Martin," said Mom, "come on, now. I just want to take a look."

Dad gripped the doorframe.

"Come on, love."

The Room That Must Be Locked When Visitors Come happened to be Dad's study. Taped to the door was a large sheet of paper bearing the words of Thomas Edison: TO INVENT, YOU NEED A GOOD IMAGINATION AND A PILE OF JUNK. Inside was the pile of junk. There were specimen jars with dead things inside, piles of old boxes and milk crates, a broken telescope, blown lightbulbs, empty fruit juice cartons, and cans of dried paint. There was so much stuff in there you had to suck your stomach in just so you could move between the towers of boxes. And everything was covered in a layer of dust — a thick, gray fur that made Juliet think of hibernating bears. At night, she imagined their great, warm bodies stirring in the dark.

"Martin," said Mom, "I can't bear that junk anymore. We can't have guests over; I have to hide it from my mother ..."

Juliet agreed with Mom. Mess meant stress. Oaf, on the other hand, could be found regularly organizing tours for the local neighborhood children. They came in order to be shocked by the sort of mess their mothers would never allow. They never went home disappointed.

"Think about it," said Mom. "If Juliet doesn't get her own room soon, we'll have a murder on our hands."

Juliet tensed. She didn't want to be the reason for a fight between her parents.

"But what about my scientific research?" said Dad.

"Research?" said Mom. "Please explain to me how three hundred margarine containers filled with rubber bands counts as research."

Mom's and Dad's voices got louder. Oaf leaned against Juliet for comfort, and Juliet, though three years older, leaned back. She wished she'd stayed in the bedroom and searched for flies. She wasn't ready to be a Child of Divorce.

"Please, Martin," said Mom. "Please."

"Well ...," said Dad.

Dad always knew when he was beaten, and the following weekend, the big cleanup began. It was a day of dust and dirt and sore backs, and by four o'clock it was time for a break outside.

"Mom," said Juliet, putting down her juice with a glassy clunk, "can I invite Lindsay over to see my new room?"

Mom set aside the play she was reading. "Of course," she said. "It should be ready in about two weeks. New paint, new carpet, new bed, the lot."

"Could I invite Gemma too?"

"I don't know a Gemma. Is she a new friend of yours?"

"Yes," said Juliet. "Well, no. I haven't met her yet, but I've seen her at school."

"Anyone's welcome in our home," said Dad, crossing his long, bendy legs.

"If they don't touch my maggot farm," said Oaf.

Juliet was about to explain that no one in their right mind would want to touch Oaf's maggot farm when Nana appeared in the doorway of her apartment. "Thought I smelled muffins," she said.

She walked up the path wearing a red dress with a long string of black beads around her neck. She used a stick to steady herself, and Juliet noticed how long it took her to reach the veranda.

"I thought you were supposed to be at craft class," said Juliet. "Making fridge magnets out of matchsticks or something."

"Yes," said Nana, "but there are only so many fridge magnets an ex–university professor can make before she starts going crazy."

"Muffin?" said Dad, holding out a plate.

"Actually," said Nana, heaving herself up the step, "I think I'll pass on the muffins. My real reason for skipping class was to take a look at my old bedroom before it's redecorated. Coming, Juliet?"

Juliet followed her gladly. Oaf had been singing "The Irritating Song" and was already up to verse seventeen.

Number 23 Gregson Street was more than a hundred years old, built by Nana's great-grandfather. It was made of big yellow sandstone blocks, and the doors were as thick as the Yellow Pages. Juliet liked the windows best, especially the round one in the front door. It was a greeny blue color and looked like a puddle after a stone's been thrown in the middle. When you peered through it, the people on the other side looked as if they were underwater.

"I didn't realize my new bedroom used to be your old bedroom," said Juliet.

"I slept in there when I was a girl," said Nana, "about your age. Later, it became a kind of storeroom. Then I moved into the apartment when your parents got married."

They walked down the hallway until they came to the old study door. The quote from Thomas Edison lay crumpled on the floor: TO INVENT, YOU NEED ... but the rest of the words were hidden from view. Nana pushed open the door, and in they went, stirring up dust with every step. The room smelled of damp newspaper and old books, and there were cracks in the wall you could fit your hand inside. Juliet noticed the wallpaper peeling off in several places. She took a step closer.

"This is unbelievable," said Nana. "It's like stepping into the past."

Juliet tugged at a curling strip of wallpaper. It was just like peeling a large, papery banana, and it felt very satisfying. She reached up and tore off another piece.

Then she saw it.

"Nana!" she said, ripping off more paper. "Nana!"

Strips of torn paper lay curling in piles on the floor, looking like enormous pencil shavings. Beneath the wallpaper was a painting of a tree, its branches stretching out along the wall like a climbing rose. Juliet scrunched up her nose at the dust and leaned forward.

"Look at this!" she said. "There are animals in the branches. I can see a wombat, a peacock, a dog, a pig, a goat, and a duck."

Juliet stepped back to get a better look. The colors of the tree had faded to dusty cinnamons, tea browns, and soft olive greens, and the colors of the animals, which must once have been bright, were now watery blues, lemony yellows, and pale rose pinks.

"Well!" said Nana. "I know this tree. I know it very well." She flipped the catch on her walking stick, and it opened out into a three-legged stool. "I need to sit down," she added, lowering herself onto the seat, "to take it all in."

"How did it get here?" said Juliet. "How? When? Why was it covered up?"

Nana fingered the beads around her neck, her mind far away. At last, she lifted a bony finger and pointed at the wall. "Look at these words," she said. "Here, down at the bottom."

Tangled in among the roots were some letters, a message looping and coiling like a single curl of apple peel. THE WORRY TREE, it said.

"What's a Worry Tree?" said Juliet. "Is it magic?"

"No, it's not magic," said Nana. "Not magic at all."

"Oh," said Juliet, disappointed.

"But," said Nana, "just because something's not magic doesn't mean it can't be magical."

Juliet thought about this for a moment. Not magic, but magical. Like her imagination, maybe?

"So, if it's not magic, how does it work?"

"You hang your worries on the tree each night so they don't keep you awake."

"How? What do you mean?"

"Start by thinking of something that's worrying you. Maybe someone you know is making life hard for you."

Hugh Allen, thought Juliet.

"Imagine that worry sitting in the palm of your hand, like this." Nana held out her hand as though she were cupping something. "Imagine an invisible string tied around its middle with a loop on top, like a Christmas tree decoration. Then take hold of the loop between your thumb and forefinger and hang it on one of the branches of the Worry Tree, like this," she said and reached up and touched the end of a branch, pretending to hang her worry on it. "The Worry Tree animals will look after your worries till morning comes. In other words, they do the worrying for you while you sleep."

"Wow!" said Juliet. "What else?"

"The wombat," replied Nana, pointing at the hairy-nosed creature, "is named ... Wolfgang. That's right, Wolfgang. And when I was worried about any of my friends, I'd ask him to help me out. It was his job, you see?"

"How come?"


Excerpted from The Worry Tree by Marianne Musgrove. Copyright © 2007 Marianne Musgrove. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Let the Worry Tree animals help you with your worries too!,
Draw your favorite Worry Tree animal here — or make up a new one!,
Copyright Page,

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The Worry Tree 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book for my daughter who is constantly worried about everyone and everything! It helped her "let go" of things that she had no control over. She still uses the Worry Tree we made at home whenever she needs to several years later.
smclawler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Juliet worries about everything. She is constantly tormented by her younger sister, Ophelia. Her dad could be described as a ¿mad scientist¿ and is oblivious to everything except his inventions. Her Grandmother is a retired professor who hasn¿t embraced the thrill of craft class at the senior center. Mom is a psychologist who¿s solution to family friction is to play the ¿tell me how you really feel¿ game. And then there are the friends. There is hope for Juliet, however, when an old mural is discovered beneath peeling wallpaper. It is the Worry Tree and is filled with helpful animals to whom you can entrust all your problems while you sleep. (Grades 3-5)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book fits me great i wish it hade more then one book it is the best book i have read :)