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Lyla Lyte and the Loot Tree

Children/Young Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

What if money grew on trees? What would you buy with it? Would you use it to satisfy your own pleasures, or better lives with it?

Everything is going good for 9-year-old school girl LYLA LYTE. MAYOR CRINKLE has changed his evil ways. He lifted the ban on reading books, the town has a new name, Coverfield, and the new library is going to be built. Well…everything except for the new library. While watching Crinkle News, Lyla finds out that financial troubles are to blame for the halted plans to build the library. She’s devastated.

The next day at Crinkle Academy, Lyla’s best friends, SAMANTHA, MEGAN, NICK and MARY echo the same sentiment. They can’t sit back and do nothing, so afterschool they meet at Lyla’s huge tree house and come up with their own green-fingered plan to raise money…by growing it.

They gather what they need and plant it underground. Their first attempt failed. They try a second time and to their surprise they grew a tree full of five dollar bills.  Money dangled from braches like green fruit. Thrilled with their discovery, all they can think about is satisfying their own pleasures.  It was obvious that building the new library was no more a priority. Lyla was the first to quickly snap back and see that the money awakened a whole new side to them. A side she doesn’t like. She was not going to let them stray from the original plan. After a bit of struggle, she was able to convince them to get back on track. To ensure no one else learns of the money tree, they come up with a secret name: Loot Tree.

They stuff their cinch sacks full of loot and headed to city hall to show Mayor Crinkle the wonderful news.  On their way, they encounter MRS. HOLMES, who was fired by Mayor Crinkle when she used to work for him. She suspects that they are hiding something, and she wants to know what it is. She follows them. At city hall they are told that the mayor is attending a conference out of town and will not return until a few days. As they sat on the steps of city hall discussing their next move, lurking around the corner is Mrs. Holmes. However, she still is unable to hear enough information to piece together the puzzle.

Mrs. Holmes finds a way to trick Lyla and her friends in not only telling her that they grew a money tree but also where it’s located. She recruits her husband, MR. HOLMES, who she degrades and control.  They find the Loot Tree.  She’s thrilled because she can use the loot to finally seek revenge on Mayor Crinkle. She decides to be a candidate in the upcoming mayoral election, and to beat him she’s going to pay the town’s people to vote for her.   

Lyla realizes that they have been duped, and tells her parents so they can help put a stop to Mrs. Holmes’s diabolical plan, but they leave it up to the mayor to deal with it. The mayor returns and is welcomed by flyers plastered all over Coverfield marketing her campaign. Naturally worried, he calls his attorney, MRS. SHIELDS, to see if Mrs. Holmes’s campaign is breaking the law. She tells the mayor that she will research the matter and get back to him. In the meantime, Mrs. Holmes’s campaign is picking up momentum. With a successful rally, it seems as though paying for votes will ensure an easy victory. To make matters worse, Mrs. Holmes challenges the mayor to a mayoral debate.  

Moderated by their teacher, MS. VERDAK, the debate takes place at Program Park. Everyone attended included Lyla and her Friends. Soon after it began, it erupted into a heated exchange between the candidates. Lyla grew disgusted and yelled accusations of Mrs. Holmes stealing their money.  Mrs. Holmes pretended to be offended, and both started bickering back and forth, until one of them let slip out the secret of the Loot Tree. It caused a sudden stampede to the location.

When they arrive, it was a long line of town’s people waiting to get five dollars in exchange for promising to vote for Mrs. Holmes. Lyla tells the crowd to stop and that the loot is to build the new library. In contrast, Mrs. Holmes tells them because the loot grew on city property it belongs to the citizens of Coverfield, and they decide what to do with it. Lyla surveys the crowd and to her dismay, all wanted money in their pockets.  Right before Mrs. Holmes is going to pluck another five dollar bill from the tree, Mrs. Shields comes to Lyla’s rescue. She tells Mrs. Holmes that vote buying is illegal, and if she continues she will be subject to jail time and could receive a hefty fine.

Mrs. Holmes immediately drops out of the race for mayor, but still being controlled by greed she wants the loot for herself.  Lyla and her friends clasp hands and form a human wall preventing Mrs. Holmes from getting to the Loot Tree. Suddenly, something strange is happening to the tree. Because of the polluted site in which it grew in, the leaves began to turn brown. It quickly withers…then dies.  Mrs. Homes began fuming with anger. She lunges at Lyla blaming her for her misfortune. Mr. Holmes can’t take it anymore. He gains a sense of courage to stands up to his wife by sticking out his foot and causing her to trip. She falls to the ground, and he tells her that’s enough. With tears in her eyes, Lyla’s hope of getting a new library vanishes.   

However, to Lyla’s surprise, the town’s people are inspired by her heroic actions. Seeing this little girl stand up to Mrs. Holmes and the money-hungry crowd, makes them see the bigger picture. It’s best to help others than yourself. Everyone began to pull money out of their pockets and purses and donate.

Happy and amazed at the amount of donations coming in, Lyla and her friends discover that some battles are worth fighting.  Due to their team work, the plans to construct the new library will resume.