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Literature / The Eagle Tree

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The Eagle Tree is a 2016 novel by Ned Hayes.
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Autistic fourteen-year-old March Wong is in love with trees. He spends most of his free time climbing trees in the forest near his home in Olympia. When he learns that the Eagle Tree, an ancient Ponderosa Pine that towers over the rest of the forest, is going to be cut down, he sets out to save the tree.

A sequel story, "Holy Trinity," was published in early 2017 and follows March as he tries to synthesize lichen in his bedroom.


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The Eagle Tree contains examples of:

  • Bittersweet Ending: March successfully campaigns to turn the LBA woods into a park, but the Eagle Tree is decayed from the inside and cannot be saved.
  • Broken Record: March didn't realize language could be used to communicate until he was eight. Until then, he just repeated words and phrases he liked over and over again.
  • Door Slam of Rage: When March's mother finds out that her brother Mike is in a relationship with Miss Stevens, the neighbor who reported March's self-harming meltdown and got him involuntarily committed for three days, she kicks him out of the house, then slams the door so hard that a picture falls off the wall and cracks.
  • Doorstopper: In "Holy Trinity," Mike buys March the real-life reference guide Lichens of North America, which is thicker than March's arm.
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  • Double-Meaning Title: "Holy Trinity" refers to three things: the theological concept, which is the subject of a sermon at March's church; the three components of lichen; and the new genus of lichen that March discovers and gets to name.
  • Exact Words: Mike tells March that he can't go near the Eagle Tree if he sees the sign that says the area is private property. March makes sure to trespass with his eyes closed.
  • Eyes Always Averted: March avoids eye contact because he doesn't like the way people's faces move around.
  • Fell Asleep Standing Up: March sometimes falls asleep vacuuming because the noise the vacuum cleaner makes sounds like tsetse flies, which makes him think of sleeping sickness.
  • First Friend: March's rather unpleasant classmate Stig refers to March as his first friend after they bond over their obsessions with trees and insects and how the two interact.
  • Green Aesop: Many of March's arguments revolve around the importance of trees to the survival of other organisms, including humans.
  • Handshake Refusal: When a woman extends her hand to March in the forest, he doesn't take it because he dislikes the feeling, and his mother isn't around to make him do things.
  • Infodump: March shares a great deal of detailed information about trees in his narration.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: March often doesn't notice when he's injured. When he does notice, he usually isn't upset - when he scratches his arms on thorns, he likes the patterns the blood makes so much that he considers scratching himself some more to add to it.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: From the top of a tree, March sees two people lie next to each other in the forest and start to take their clothes off. He climbs down and leaves before he sees much.
  • Middle Name Basis: March's full name is Peter March Wong, but he prefers to be called March. His mother and Pastor Ilsa still sometimes call him Peter, to his annoyance.
  • Pet the Dog: When March sees Miss Stevens playing with her dogs and feeding them treats, he realizes she can't be as bad as his mother thinks she is.
  • Photographic Memory: March has one, although it mostly only works around trees. He perfectly remembers the pictures and captions in a book he read about birds last year, and he can navigate the forest with his eyes closed as long as it's an area he's already visited.
  • Potty Emergency: On March and his mother's first night in their new house, March has to go to the bathroom really badly, but the brass toilet handle throws him off because the toilets at home and at school have white and silver handles. His mom creates a silver line with tinfoil, allowing March to pee before he has a Potty Failure.
  • Saw "Star Wars" 27 Times: March has watched a documentary about Julia Butterfly Hill 117 times.
  • Textual Celebrity Resemblance: March's teacher Mr. Gatek looks like a young Albert Einstein.
  • Throwing Out the Script: When March goes to speak in front of the city council, he drops his cards, picks them up in the wrong order, and can't find one of them. He's forced to improvise the speech, which he isn't very good at. He does manage to get to the most important point: that the tree is home to an endangered murrelet.

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