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Dear America Wiki

"I have not written for eight days. What could I write? Father is dead. Mother is dead. My baby sister, Lucy, is dead. Daniel and I are alive, but Daniel hates the entire world and will not speak, not to me or to anyone."
Lydia Pierce[2]

Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce is the second new book in the Dear America relaunch. The book was written by Newbery award winning author, Lois Lowry and published in January 2011. It was followed by a new edition of A Light in the Storm in March 2011.

The book follows Lydia Pierce during 1918 flu pandemic as she adjusts to a new life in a Shaker village.

Book description[]

"My name is Lydia. This is my story....
In 1918, as the Great War rages in Europe, the Spanish influenza tears a brutal path across the United States, leaving devastation in its wake, Suddenly, eleven-year-old Lydia Pierce and her older brother, Daniel, find themselves orphans of the flu, and are taken by their grieving uncle to be raised in the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake. Thrust into the Shakers' unfamiliar way of life, Lydia, a fiercely independent girl, must grapple with a new world that is nothing like the one she used to know.
Lydia must work hard, and all the while she worries about her headstrong brother, who has run away. In time, and with courageous spirit, Lydia learns o find the joy in living with the Shakers—yet she cannot stop wondering, will Daniel ever return?


In 1918, Lydia Pierce, an eleven-year-old girl, lives with her parents, Caroline and Walter, and siblings, Daniel and Lucy in Portland, Maine. One day, her parents and younger sister become victims of a flu pandemic. Lydia and Daniel, now orphans, go to live with their uncle Henry, aunt Sarah, and six cousins. Unable to take care of two more children, Henry takes them to live with the Shakers in Sabbathday Lake.

Sister Jennie, the caretaker of the younger girls, takes Lydia to where she will be staying and introduces her to Grace, Rebecca, and Polly, whom she will be sharing a room with. At first, Lydia has a hard time grasping the Shakers customs, which also prohibit her from interacting with Daniel. However, she quickly learns new skills as she starts work in the laundry room. Lydia grows accustomed to her new life within a short period of time, unlike Daniel, who during a supervised visit warns her that he is planning on leaving.

Lydia's worse fears come true, when Daniel runs away in early November. She continues to worry through much of the following months, until she thinks of a way to find out his condition. When school starts again that spring, Lydia seeks out Gloria, a girl from "the world" and sister of Daniel's only friend. Lydia asks her to question her brother about Daniel. A few days later, Gloria comes back with news that Daniel is currently living nearby in Oxford Hills.

Over the next few months, Lydia learns more about the Shaker faith and the important members of the community as well as the many things they make to raise money. Meanwhile, her worry over Daniel increases as Gloria gives her little news of him. Lydia's fears do not abate until he finally returns during a spring blizzard. Now with Daniel back, Lydia finds a sense of peace in her life and realizes how much she loves her new Shaker family.


Historical Note[]


Main article: List of Like the Willow Tree characters
  • Lydia Amelia Pierce, an eleven-year-old orphaned by the 1918 flu pandemic. She goes to live with her uncle, before being taken to the live with the Shakers in 'Chosen Land'.
  • Daniel Pierce is the sullen teenage brother of Lydia. Already withdrawn and disrespectful, Daniel only gets worse when he moves in with his uncle and later the Shakers.
  • Sister Jennie Mathers, the kind caretaker of the young girls at Sabbathday Lake. She helps Lydia adjust to the Shakers customs and beliefs.


Lois Lowry talks about Like the Willow Tree

Main article: Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is the author of over thirty children's books, including Number the Stars (1989), The Giver (1994), and the Anastasia Krupnik series (1979-1995). Like the Willow Tree is her only book written for Dear America. Lowry owns a house in southwest Maine near the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, which gave her the idea to write about them when Scholastic approached her. In order to create an orphan character, Lowry set the book during the 1918 flu pandemic. She spent a lot time at the village researching during the summer of 2009.


  • Narrator: Sara Barnett
  • Publisher: Scholastic Audio
  • Published: January 1, 2011[5]
  • Running time: 4 hours and 10 minutes
  • No. of discs: 4
  • ISBN: 9780545273718/9780545273725[6]


  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People (2012)[7]


"With thanks to Leonard L. Brooks, director of the Shaker Library and Museum at Sabbathday Lake; to Tina Agren, the librarian/archivist; and to Brother Arnold Hadd, who patiently and generously answered questions that he has probably answered a hundred times before."


  • Tim O'Brien illustrated the portrait on the cover of the first edition. The background on the cover is a detail of a photograph of Sabbathday Lake provided by the Collection of the United Society of Shakers.[8]
  • The cover of the second edition was illustrated by Mike Heath.[9]


See also[]

File:Like the Willow Tree Discussion Guide.pdf

Dear America

A Journey to the New World | The Winter of Red Snow | When Will This Cruel War Be Over? | A Picture of Freedom
Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly
West to a Land of Plenty | Dreams in the Golden Country | Standing in the Light | Voyage on the Great Titanic
A Line in the Sand | My Heart Is on the Ground | The Great Railroad Race | The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow
A Light in the Storm | Color Me Dark | A Coal Miner's Bride | My Secret War | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
Valley of the Moon | Seeds of Hope | Early Sunday Morning | My Face to the Wind | Christmas After All
A Time for Courage | Where Have All the Flowers Gone? | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall | Survival in the Storm
When Christmas Comes Again | Land of the Buffalo Bones | Love Thy Neighbor | All the Stars in the Sky
Look to the Hills | I Walk in Dread | Hear My Sorrow


The Fences Between Us | Like the Willow Tree | Cannons at Dawn | With the Might of Angels | Behind the Masks
Down the Rabbit Hole | A City Tossed and Broken

External links[]