As he presents a painting of her beloved sycamore tree, Juli’s dad tells her, “I want the spirit of that tree to be with you always. I want you to remember how you felt when you were up there.” The sycamore tree means so much to Juli that her eyes fill with tears when she sees the painting, and, throughout Wendelin Van Draanen’s book Flipped, the sycamore tree is full of meaning. In Flipped, the sycamore tree symbolizes multiple points in the development of Juli’s character. In the sycamore tree, Juli gains courage and determination, a new perspective, and understanding that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the beginning, the sycamore tree is simply a place where Juli and her brothers play, but it becomes a place that tests and proves Juli’s courage and determination. One day, a stray lucky kite caught high in the branches pushes Juli to new limits. Though she has never climbed so high before, she keeps her focus on the kite, keeps climbing, and succeeds in rescuing the kite and returning it to Bryce. Later, Juli encounters another test of courage when she realizes from her perch high in the tree that a crew is waiting to cut it down. Juli refuses to come down and shows her courage and determination in trying to save her tree.
Even after the sycamore tree is gone, it remains important in Juli’s life and thoughts as a symbol of her change in perspective. Juli first experiences a change of perspective from the high branches of the sycamore. From her place above the neighborhood her view literally changes; she can see everything on
the ground differently from above than from the ground. The expansive view of the neighborhoods surrounding her and the breath-taking views of sunrises and sunsets in the tree are memories she will never forget. When she looks back on the tree and the experience of losing it, though, she sees not just the beautiful views she enjoyed but the day that her view of things around her began to change.
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