Marianne Musgrove

Juliet’s a worrywart, and no wonder! Her little sister, Oaf, sings ‘The Irritating Song’ all day, her parents are arguing, and Juliet’s two best friends are jealous of each other. Juliet can’t fit in any more worries!

But behind the wallpaper in her new room, Juliet discovers a painting of a tree. It’s the Worry Tree, and with the help of a duck called Delia and the other Worry Tree animals, Juliet might be able to solve some of life’s big problems.


Chapter One

Juliet Jennifer Jones opened the door, stepped out of the toilet and walked straight into her little sister.

'Eight minutes and forty-seven seconds,' said Ophelia, clicking her stopwatch. 'What were you doing in there?'
'Mum!' shrieked Juliet. 'Oaf's timing me in the toilet again!'

When there was no reply, Juliet stomped out of the room.

Ophelia, also known as 'Oaf', smiled quietly to herself, pulled out a yellow pad of paper and carefully wrote 8:47 in the left-hand column. Then she tucked the notepad back into her pocket and went off to find her sister.

Juliet stormed through the house looking for an adult. She went into the lounge room but Mum had her nose in her favourite Shakespearean play.

'Give me five more minutes,' said Mum, 'and then I will speak to thee, I mean, I'll speak to you.'

Juliet rolled her eyes and went in search of Dad.
Dad was in the laundry making a model volcano and she couldn't get him to talk about anything other than lava, ash or explosions. She frowned and went in search of Nana.

Nana lived in the granny flat down the back garden but when Juliet got there, all she found was a note taped to the door of the flat: Gone to craft class. This week: macramé pot holders!

Juliet turned around, huffing. Oaf was standing behind her singing a song she'd learnt in the playground that week. It was called 'The Irritating Song' and you just kept chanting it over and over like this:

Irritating, irritating,
It's the song you'll end up hating
Just 'cos it's so irritating.
That was the first verse. The second verse went like this:
So frustrating, so frustrating,
So frustrating-strating-strating,
It's the song you'll end up hating
Just 'cos it's so [clap] frustrating.

The other twenty-two verses continued on in pretty much the same vein. Oaf really liked that song.
'Irritating, irritating ...'

Juliet gritted her teeth. She could feel her skin itching and prickling.
Oh, no, she thought. It's starting again.
Juliet was cursed with a nervous rash which flared up whenever she was stressed. It started shortly after Oaf was born (no coincidence as far as Juliet was concerned) and had continued on and off for the last seven years.
'Irritating-tating-tating ...'

Juliet ducked past her sister, down the long hallway, past The Room That Must Be Locked When Visitors Come, and into the bedroom she shared with Oaf. She shut the door firmly behind her and sank down on the floor. Now she was safe. Sort of. She gazed up at a sign on her wall. Mum had made it especially for her. I am a capable person who can handle any crisis, it said. Juliet said these words over and over when she was feeling upset. She tried to say them now but Oaf was singing on the other side of the door and it was putting her off.

'It's the song you'll end up hating ...'
Juliet bit her thumbnail. Didn't she have enough to worry about? Dad always in a muddle, Mum working long hours, Nana refusing to wear her safety alarm . . . It was extremely hard work running a family when you were only ten. And then there was Hugh Allen ...
'Just 'cos it's so irritating ...'

Juliet's rash spread like foot soldiers, straight up her arms and back down her legs. She had to do something before she was driven completely mad. There was only one thing for it.

Chapter Two

Sorting. That's what Juliet did to relax. While others lit candles, played music and took warm baths, Juliet sorted through the many strange collections she kept in her bedroom. For the record, she owned:

  • an eraser collection (143 in total)
  • a dried-cicada-shell collection (numbering fifty-one)
  • a book filled with licence plate numbers (Any car that parked in Juliet's street was recorded in this book.)
  • ribbons for perfect attendance at school (twelve at last count)
  • a box of used bus tickets (sixty-seven as of Tuesday)
  • Piranha, her Venus flytrap

She also had a row of tiny cactus plants she'd been collecting since the spring. She liked the way they kept growing even without the rain. She liked the way they managed on their own.

Juliet pulled out a bright blue box. Written on the lid in thick silver texta were her initials: JJJ, just like three fishhooks in a row. Juliet kept her collection of teeth inside, lying on white cotton wool, just so they'd be comfortable.

How should I sort them today? she wondered. Colour (white, whitish-yellow, yellowish-white, grey); shape (fat and square, sharp and pointy, those with fillings, those with holes); or owner (Dad, Oaf, herself, or her best friend, Lindsay)?

She sat down on the carpet, crossed her legs neatly and balanced the box on her lap. 'I think shape,' she said. She took hold of the lid and lifted it up. She looked inside. The teeth were not there! Juliet's mind raced to one grim conclusion: 'Oaf!'

Shortly after, Mum found the two sisters arguing in the bedroom.
'Why can't you leave my things alone?!'
'Mm?' said Oaf.
'I know you took my teeth.'
'Yes, teeth! The ones from my collection!'
'Ohhhh, thoooose,' said Oaf. 'I borrowed them to make a set of false teeth.'
'With some plasticine.'
'And some superglue.'
Juliet's skin itched like mad. She let out a long, loud shriek.
'All right, girls,' said Mum. 'No more fighting today. It's not helpful.'

As a psychologist, Mum had a great understanding of Conflict and Sibling Rivalry, which is another way of saying fights between sisters.

'But Mum -' began Juliet.
'I mean it, you two. Shouting and screaming won't solve a thing. I think it's time the three of us sat down and talked things through.'

Juliet and Oaf groaned. Talking Things Through was never a pleasant experience.

'I reckon she's going to make us Name Our Feelings,' muttered Oaf.
Please, no, thought Juliet.
'I've been thinking things over,' said Mum, 'and I've decided we should all name our feelings.'
Oaf raised an eyebrow. 'Told you,' she said.

The girls had been through this naming exercise before. The idea was to say things like 'I feel x when you do y.' For example, 'I feel angry when you lick all the Tim Tams then put them back in the packet' (message from Juliet to Oaf) or 'I feel frustrated when you follow me around with binoculars taking notes' (another message from Juliet to Oaf).

'So, girls,' said Mum, looking from one daughter to the other, 'who wants to go first? Anyone? Anyone at all? No? Well, all right then, why don't I start things off?'

Mum settled herself on the carpet and folded her hands. 'When you girls fight and shout at each other, I feel upset and frazzled and the noise makes me feel tense and unhappy. Now,' she said, turning to Juliet, 'what do you have to share with us, Worrywart?'

Oaf pricked up her ears. 'Juliet has warts? We should probably all wear thongs in the shower.'

Juliet's skin throbbed. She was very, very tired of Oaf and her so-called Humour. Maybe it was time she named some of her feelings.

'When Oaf,' she said, looking down at the empty box, 'takes my things without asking, again and again and again and again, I feel like punching her in the face.'
'Juliet!' said Mum. 'That's not in the spirit of the exercise.'
Juliet crossed her arms.
'Right then, Oaf,' said Mum, 'you name your feelings.'
Ophelia looked thoughtful.
'Wendy and Brian,' she said.
'Very funny, Oaf,' said Mum, looking exasperated. 'You know that's not what I meant. I think we'll give the naming exercise a miss today. What you two really need are your own rooms.'
'Really?' said Juliet. 'But doesn't that mean -'
'Yes,' said Mum. 'It does. Hold on to your hats, girls!'

Excerpted from The Worry Tree. Copyright © 2007 by Marianne Musgrove. Excerpted by permission of Random House Australia. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.