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3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows


3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows

The day Ama, Jo and Polly met in third grade, they became fast friends. At that time they received willow tree cuttings in science class, which they later planted in the woods near Pony Hill. As the willows grow, the girls grow close and their friendships blossom. But over the years, they have changed. 

Book-smart Ama --- whose parents emigrated from Ghana so their children could have a good education and a better life --- spends her time studying and trying to live up to the high expectations set by her older sister, Esi. As summer begins, Ama is off to Wyoming on a “Wild Adventure” study grant. She is dismayed to learn that her study time is to be spent outdoors hiking and camping, and not inside a library surrounded by books. 

Following the death of Jo’s older brother Finn a few years earlier, Jo broke away from her old friends to hang out with a style-conscious, popular crowd. After eighth-grade graduation, Jo and her cleanliness-obsessed mother are headed for fun and sun at the family's beach house. At the beach, Jo finds a part-time job, makes some new friends and experiences summer love. But which summer memories --- and friendships --- will endure? 

In many ways, level-headed, thoughtful and loyal Polly has remained unchanged since the girls first met. Polly longs for the joyful and carefree times when the three of them were best friends. In her journal, she writes, “There are moments in your life when the big pieces slide and shift. Sometimes the big changes don’t happen gradually, but all at once. That’s how it was for us. That was the day we discovered that friends can do things for you that your parents can’t.” 

While Ama and Jo are out of town for the summer, Polly stays behind to earn cash while trying to spend more time with her mother. After Polly decides to save her babysitting money to pursue a new dream, she discovers a few family secrets and learns some painful lessons about life. 

As summer comes to an end, the girls prepare to enter South Bethesda High School, where the legend of the original sisterhood endures and now a new generation of sisterhood takes root. 

Ann Brashares has painted with words a realistic portrait of everyday teenage life, self-doubt and discovery. The novel opens with a quote from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”: “The smallest sprout shows there is really no death.” This warm and wise story is about how friendships --- like willow trees --- sprout and grow and change, yet the strong ones never really die. The author’s writing is graceful. The emotions of the main characters are raw and real, and their voices are fresh and appealing. The very sentimental ending, which will cause some readers to shed a few tears, should translate well to the big screen. 

I highly recommend 3 WILLOWS to fans of the original Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and newcomers to Brashares’s work like myself. In fact, anyone who has been blessed with the wonderful and complex gift of friendship will appreciate this book and remember it for a long time to come. 


Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt

Review #2 by Amy Alessio

In this companion to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsphenomenon, younger siblings of the sisterhood are mentioned and a few of the Traveling Four even pop up once in a while. 3 WILLOWS, however, is no disappointment. The three girls here are just as interesting and diverse as the original cast, but this is a different series with different strengths and issues. Ann Brashares shows smart, strong girls who sometimes make the wrong choices but still value the importance of friendship. 

Ama, Polly and Jo are not similar to Tibby, Lena, Carmen and Bridget. They share no pants. In fact, Brashares has a hilarious section where they talk about the famous girls and their magical pair of jeans. They say that everyone in the school was trying to share pants, but they fit no one well. The girls then tried different accessories, including a scarf, which was just “lame.” The symbol of friendship here, which is more relatable and natural, are three willow trees. Years ago, they planted their science projects of willows into the ground, near a beloved hill and playground. None of them have visited recently, though they all remember planting them. A wonderful scene at the end has them returning to the plants after they have revisited their bonds of friendship. 

The original four in the sisterhood wrote letters interspersed with their chapters. Ama, Polly and Jo do the same but often cross them out and don’t send them. It does help explain their feelings, that they are reluctant to break off from each other entirely. The letters are smoother and easier to follow in the original series, but the girls in 3 WILLOWS are not as mature and are more emotional, so the pacing fits the characters. 

Jo begs Polly’s forgiveness, Ama tries to connect with each of them and her own hidden strengths, and they all learn the importance of one another in this story of mistakes and missteps. Anyone who has seen friendships change will understand exactly what the girls are going through. Here we have another intelligent set of characters from an author who offers respect along with good stories for teens.

Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt and Amy Alessio on January 13, 2009

3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
by Ann Brashares

  • Publication Date: January 13, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 0385736762
  • ISBN-13: 9780385736763