Why do you think artwork is such an important part of this story?
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To Melinda, art represents emotional healing and growth. In art class, Melinda is assigned "tree" as the object with which she will be working for the remainder of the school year. Her connection with trees grows stronger near the end of the novel, when she begins obsessively raking leaves from her front yard. Her father calls the arborists to have dead branches removed from the family's oak tree. After hearing her father explain the purpose of this to a passerby, Melinda decides she needs to trim her own dead branches, which will be painful, but which will allow her to regain her health and to grow. Trees are not the only plant that play a role in Melinda's life--after using apples to study reproduction in biology class, Melinda studies and is fascinated by the botanic reproductive process, and specifically by how many obstacles and dangers seeds face in transitioning from seed to plant, as she does in turning from child to adult. Later in the novel, she asks her dad to buy her seeds so that she can garden in her yard, showing that she finally has a desire to grow.