3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
  • 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
  • 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
  • 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
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3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows

3.9 84
by Ann Brashares

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summer is a time to grow

Polly has an idea that she can't stop thinking about, one that involves changing a few things about herself. She's setting her sights on a more glamorous life, but it's going to take all of her focus. At least that way she won't have to watch her friends moving so far ahead.

Jo is spending the

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summer is a time to grow

Polly has an idea that she can't stop thinking about, one that involves changing a few things about herself. She's setting her sights on a more glamorous life, but it's going to take all of her focus. At least that way she won't have to watch her friends moving so far ahead.

Jo is spending the summer at her family's beach house, working as a busgirl and bonding with the older, cooler girls she'll see at high school come September. She didn't count on a brief fling with a cute boy changing her entire summer. Or feeling embarrassed by her middle school friends. And she didn't count on her family at all. . .

Ama is not an outdoorsy girl. She wanted to be at an academic camp, doing research in an air-conditioned library, earning A's. Instead her summer scholarship lands her on a wilderness trip full of flirting teenagers, blisters, impossible hiking trails, and a sad lack of hair products.
It is a new summer. And a new sisterhood. Come grow with them.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 10, 2008:
“Brashares gets her characters’ emotions and interactions just right.”
Publishers Weekly

With the Traveling Pants series all wrapped up, Brashares introduces a new group of BFFs and addresses a slightly younger crowd. Living in the same town as the semilegendary Sisterhood girls, Ama, Polly and Jo have tried to share a pair of jeans and settled on a joint-property scarf (plus an induction ceremony), but their rituals are "lame," and so, they suspect, is their trio. Only socially backward Polly thinks she'll miss the others when all three disperse the summer before high school. In typical Brashares fashion, each girl faces unexpected tribulations: intellectually ambitious Ama, who is afraid of heights, has won a spot in a prestigious scholarship program-which sends her mountain climbing. Jo, newly told that her parents are divorcing, submerges her feelings in the excitement of being friends with a popular girl and having an older boyfriend-or so she thinks. Polly, sold out by Jo in the pursuit of cool, learns that her single mom is alcoholic. Fans will like the tidiness in the controlling metaphor, willow tree cuttings planted after a third-grade project, and for all the fidelity to formula, Brashares gets her characters' emotions and interactions just right. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)

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Children's Literature - Naomi Milliner
Marylanders Ama, Jo and Polly have been best friends since 3rd grade, but as they enter the summer before 9th grade, their paths, and relationships, grow shaky. Ama, a smart, indoorsy girl from Ghana, receives a study grant for "Wild Adventures" in Wyoming; flirtatious Jo, whose parents are beginning a trial separation, gets a waitress gig and a boyfriend; and Polly, the shy, quiet one with an eccentric, alcoholic mom, hopes to transform herself into a model. As the girls venture forth on their own, we learn of past events, like Jo's brother's death, and the planting of 3 willow trees—which serve as a lovely and apt metaphor throughout the story. Despite strange and confusing lapses into first person early on, Brasheres retains her stature as master storyteller. Once again she has created a cast of 3-dimensional, complex and (mostly) likable heroines. Fans of her "Traveling Pants" series will enjoy the occasional cameos of their older counterparts. Readers will identify with Ama's fears, Polly's desperation, and Jo's loneliness and despair. Most of all, they will cheer when Jo finally realizes her friends' worth in her life: "(They) knew the shape of who she was, and helped keep her in it. Without them she felt like she drifted and lost her outlines." Tweens and teens alike will eagerly await the next installment. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner
Jacqueline Bach
After four summers with the sisterhood of the traveling pants, Brashares introduces us to the next generation of best friends whose lives are linked not by pants, but by willow trees. Polly, Ama, and Jo have just finished eighth grade when they find themselves dealing with a new job, an unexpected adventure, and complicated family circumstances. Separated for most of the summer, the three become distant only to be pulled back together by tragedy. Younger readers who enjoyed Brashares's previous novels will enjoy this one as well. Their story is told from three different points of view, and Brashares includes observations about willow trees as a device for setting up each section. Although 3 Willows seems to have been marketed as part of the original series (and the previous characters make cameos in the story), this novel can stand on its own and is undoubtedly destined to have a sequel. Reviewer: Jacqueline Bach
VOYA - Stacey Hayman
Polly, Jo, and Ama became best friends on their first day of third grade. Forgotten by their parents, the girls left school together with plants they were to care for and help grow into willow trees. As the plants grew, so did their friendship. For the next six years, the girls were inseparable, caring for Jo after her brother died, giving Polly a place to go when her Mom disappeared into her art studio, and encouraging Ama while her sister achieved academic heights. Now they have drifted apart without knowing exactly how it happened. Jo wants to be popular at any cost, even if the boy she likes is a player. Ama wants to rely on her brains and not her body, even though she's won a prized scholarship to a wilderness adventure. Polly wants to find herself, even if it means trying to reshape her body in an unhealthy way. These friends are incoming freshman at the same high school setting as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series, so fans will get a few glimpses of familiar characters. But that should not be the reason to read this new series. Instead be ready to enjoy the individual stories of three lapsed friends who find their way back to each other and who benefit from a stronger bond as a result of the journey back. The only disappointment comes from the lack of discussion or acknowledgment of Polly's brush with an eating disorder. Readers can only hope that it will be addressed in one of the next two proposed series books. Reviewer: Stacey Hayman
School Library Journal

Gr 7-10

Incoming freshmen at the same high school that the original sisterhood attended, Ama, Jo, and Polly are learning that falling out of friendship is an unfortunate part of growing up. They're spending the summer apart-uprooted-dealing with divorce, unmet expectations, and, of course, boys. Fans of Brashares will likely be thrilled to get their hands on Willows , yet the story falls short of offering the chick-lit genre anything new. Undoubtedly, though, readers will become involved with the girls as they grow their separate ways, ultimately realizing that the roots of their friendship have never really come undone. The sweet (near sappy) novel will find a place on the to-read list of many tweens and teens.-Emily Chornomaz, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

Kirkus Reviews
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants has entered college. Now, three younger girls are about to take its place. Jo, Polly and Ama have been friends since childhood, but as high school approaches the three find themselves growing in separate directions. As in the first Traveling Pants book, the girls are spending their first summer apart. Academic Ama is hiking her way to school credit. Sensitive, quirky Polly is at home, saving her money so she can attend modeling school. Jo, newly popular, travels to her family's beach home and works her first summer job. The girls find that their physical distance brings them closer emotionally. A sweetly sentimental narrative combined with story lines of romance and parent drama ensures that like the previous Pants books, this one will travel from girl to girl. At times the characters are difficult to distinguish from one another, and the parallels between the girls' friendship and the willow trees they planted as children go over the top, but that will not detract from the book's popularity. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Series, #5
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

Read an Excerpt


The last day of school was a half day. Tomorrow the entire eighth grade would pile back into the gym for the graduation ceremony, but that was just for an hour and their families would be there. The next time Ama went to school, it would be high school.

Everything is changing, Ama thought.

Usually she took the bus home, but today she felt like walking, she wasn't sure why. She wasn't sentimental. She was purposeful and forward-looking, like her older sister. But it was an aimless time of day, and she wasn't hauling her usual twenty pounds of textbooks, binders, and notebooks. Today she felt like treading the familiar steps she'd walked so many times when she was younger, when she was never in a hurry.

She couldn't help thinking about Polly and Jo as she walked, so when she saw them up ahead, waiting at the light to cross East-West Highway, it almost felt like they appeared out of her memory.

Ama was surprised to see Polly and Jo together. From this long view, she was struck by the naturalness of the way they stood together and at the same time, the strain. She doubted they had started off from school together. These days Jo usually left school with her noisy and flirting group of friends to go to the Tastee Diner or to the bagel place around the corner. Polly went her own way—taking forever to pack up her stuff and often spending time at the library before heading home. Ama sometimes saw Polly at the library and they sat together out of habit. But unlike Ama, Polly wasn't there to do her homework. Polly read everything in the library except what was assigned.

As Ama got closer, she considered how little Jo looked like she used to in elementary school. Her braces were off, her glasses were gone, and she devotedly wore whatever the current marker for popularity was—at the moment, pastel plaid shorts and her hair in two braids. Ama considered how much Polly, in her long frayed shorts and her dark newsboy cap, looked the same as she always had.

"Ama! Hey!" Polly saw her first. She was waving excitedly. The walk sign illuminated and Ama hurried to catch up to them so they could cross the highway together.

"I can't believe you're here," Polly said, looking from Ama to Jo. "This is historic."

"It's on her way home," Jo pointed out, not seeming to want to acknowledge the significance of the three of them walking home together on this day.

Ama understood how Jo felt. The history of their friendship was like a brimming and moody pond under a smooth surface of ice, and she didn't want to crack it.

As they walked they talked about final exams and graduation plans. Nobody said anything as they passed the 7-Eleven or even as they approached the old turn.

What if we turned? Ama suddenly wondered. What if they ran down the old hill, past the playground, and stepped into the woods to see the little trees they had planted so long ago? What if they held hands and ran as fast as they could?

But the three of them passed the old turn, heads and eyes forward. Only Polly seemed to glance back for a moment.

Anyway, even if they did turn, Ama knew it wouldn't be the same. The creaky metal merry-go-round would be rusted, the swing set abandoned. The trees might not even be there anymore. It had been so long since they'd tended to them.

Ama pictured her younger self, running down the hill with her two best friends, out of control and exhilarated.

It was different now. People changed and places changed. They were going into high school. This was no time for looking back. Ama couldn't even picture the trees. She couldn't remember the name of the hill anymore.

When I think of the first day of our friendship, I think of the three of us running across East-West Highway with our backpacks on our backs and our potted plants in our hands. I think of Jo dropping her plant in the middle of the street and all of us stopping short, and the sight of the little stalk turned on its side and the roots showing and the soil spilling onto the asphalt. I remember the three of us stooping down to put the plant back into its pot, hurriedly tucking its roots back under the dirt as the walk signal turned from white walk to blinking orange don't walk. And I remember Ama shouting that we had to hurry, and seeing, over my shoulder, the cars pouring over the hill toward us. I remember the rough feeling of the asphalt scraping under my fingers as I swept up the last of the dirt, the stinging feeling of my knuckles as I tried to gather it in my fist. I think it was Jo who grabbed my arm and pulled me to the sidewalk. And I remember the long, flat swell of the horns in my ears.

We met on the first day of third grade, because of all the 132 kids in our grade, we were the three who didn't get picked up. I was spooked, because my mom had never failed to pick me up from school. She'd never even been late before.

We didn't talk to each other at first. I was embarrassed and scared and I didn't want to show it. They put us in the math help room with the see-through walls. We stared out like a zoo exhibit waiting for our parents to come.

That was the day they gave out the little willow tree cuttings in plastic pots in our science class. We were supposed to take care of them and study them all year. I remember each of us sitting at a desk with our plant in front of us. Polly kept poking at hers to see if the soil was too dry. She hummed.

Jo put her sneakers up on the desk and leaned back. She said her plant probably wouldn't last through the week.

I couldn't believe how casual the two of them were about being left at school. I was freaked out, but later on I learned that my mother had a really good excuse for not showing up that day.

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