How much does the Earth weigh? How are rainbows made? Where do dreams come from? Why do I have a tail bone and not a tail? Will mum ever stop crying? How do I put us back together? The right way, like we were with you?
These are questions Carina Sugden needs answered but the only person who can answer them isn’t there anymore. Carina’s dad passed away and the family can’t seem to find their way through the sadness and loss. Her mum decided when the doctors had said there was nothing more they could for dad, that they all needed a ‘tree change,’ and so the small town of Forrest was chosen. Even though the house they found was a ‘fixer-upper’, dad had wanted an adventure in a place surrounded by trees and had wanted them all to fix the house together.
But the town and their new home in the Otway Ranges seemed to bring more hurt, more problems and even more sadness because dad hadn’t come with them. Mum threw herself into fixing up the house on her own, crying behind closed doors and shutting people out, Jack became more distant and mean and didn’t want anything to do with his little sister anymore, Gramps tried his best to keep the peace but was fighting a losing battle, and Carina spent hours searching the forest near their new home for the one thing dad had been certain was there and that she had promised her dad she would find for him – a moon tree. Her dad had told her about the seeds taken into space on the 1971 Apollo mission and the trees planted with them on their return to Earth. They were special, just like her dad, and she wasn’t going to let him down. But finding one was proving much harder than she thought.
Finding a path through grief is never easy, but the journey can eventually give rise to new friends, new beginnings, and the opportunity to heal - which is exactly what Forrest gives the Sugden family.
This is a truly beautiful story that captures the very essence and heartbreak of profound loss. Shivaun Plozza doesn’t shy away from the reality of the friction and conflict that can occur at times like this and approaches it with enormous gentleness and poignancy so that the reader doesn’t feel confronted but is rather placed in the heart of this family and gently brought along on their journey through grief to acceptance.
‘I don’t think memories are bad. I think they’re like seeds – you plant them, nurture them and they grow up big and strong and that way the people you love never really die.’
I totally agree with Carina’s character. What a wonderful way to keep alive the memories of those we have lost. Let’s all plant our own memory seeds from now on.
Teaching themes could include grief, families, acceptance, loss, trees, science, magic, dendrology, scientific processes, intergenerational relationships and friendship.
Find out more about Shivaun Plozza
Published by University of Queensland Press
Release date: 4 July, 2023
Highly recommended for ages 9+
Gone. It was a word that made sense and made no sense at all. How was he supposed to concentrate at school and make sense of anything when his grandma had just . . . well, gone. Not only had grandma been Elliot's connection to his love of music, but she was his best friend too. Now the last thing he wanted to do was play his violin. Music just didn't feel the same without her there.
One afternoon his mum knocked on the bedroom door and handed him an old cassette tape in an envelope that grandma had left just for him. As it played, the loop of four simple notes seemed to be asking him questions and demanding answers that he wasn't ready to give. Finally he let his grief explode and when he was done, he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. But just before midnight, he was awoken by a snuffling sound and when he opened his eyes, it wasn't what he thought it might be. Sitting beside his bed, eating the dinner his mum had left for him was - a dragon!
'I'm your guide for the journey . . .' said Kimorin the dragon.
'. . . I'm not going anywhere,' protested Elliot.
'Are you sure? So you ain't got a ticket?'
Elliot remembered the ticket he had found under his pillow sixteen days after grandma had died. The only thing on it that he had recognised was his name - and now the dragon's. Elliot's journey on The Night Train was about to begin.
From the very first chapter we feel the enormity of Elliot's loss, and sense the love and connection he shared with his grandmother through music. But whilst acknowledging that grief and sadness, Ben Brooks also encourages the reader to embrace the magic of the journey, the importance of friendship and family, and the power of music to heal and inspire hope. A warmhearted and uplifting story for ages 7 +. Highly recommended.
Teaching themes could include grief, loss, dragons, trains, family, friendship, magic, magical creatures, boys, emotions, music, composing, musical compositions.
Find out more about Ben Brooks
Published by Hachette Australia
Release date 23 June, 2023
Highly recommended for ages 7 +
In this new picture book from Shae Millward we meet Ziggy, a rabbit who was once companion to The Amazing Albertino, a most marvellous and magnificent magician. They travelled the world together, delighting and surprising audiences. Albertino would make things disappear and then reappear, and when he tapped his wand three times and spoke the magic words, Ziggy would jump out of Albertino’s hat to the amazement of the crowd. After each performance, Alby (as Ziggy affectionately called him) would gaze up at the moon, and once told him, ‘The moon is a master of illusion Ziggy. It’s a dusty old rock. . . yet we see it as beautiful. It appears to shine but makes no light of its own. It seems to change shape, yet it is always whole.’ Albertino began spending a lot of time in his room, and Ziggy was certain he was working on a really BIG trick. Then one day when Ziggy woke up, Alby was gone. Alby had made all kinds of objects vanish before, but had never made himself disappear. And so Ziggy waits, and waits, and waits for him to reappear. As he waits, he meets Owl, and tells him how worried he is that something has gone wrong with the trick. Owl reassures him that the trick was a success, his greatest ever, and that he is not gone, but all around them. Albertino has simply changed from one form into another, and is now part of the moon, the stars, the rainbows and flowers. But most importantly, he will always be part of Ziggy's heart.
This is such a quietly emotive and beautiful tale of friendship, loss and acceptance. With the moon as a metaphor for being ever changing but at the same time always there, Shae Millward offers a gentle explanation of losing someone in the physical sense, but still having them with us in the memories and everyday reminders all around us. Andy Fackrell’s gorgeous illustrations are perfect support for the story, with his use of bold, bright colours when Ziggy and Alby are together, and subtle nighttime hues as Ziggy waits for his friend to return. Ziggy’s expressions from his sadness and confusion about Alby’s disappearance, to his pure joy at the realisation that he will always be with him, are enchanting and poignant in their simplicity. THE RABBIT’S MAGICIAN is an uplifting tale of love, comfort and remembrance, and would make a wonderful addition to collections and picture books dealing with grief.
Supporting teaching themes could include friendship, loss, grief, love, magic, rabbits, animals, magicians, the moon, phases of the moon.
Find out more about Shae Millward.
Find out more about Andy Fackrell.
Link to author interview with Shae Millward.
Link to lesson activities.
Published by Ford St.
ISBN: 9781922696076 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 3 - 8
Chris McKimmie has a knack of being able to capture the essence of a story with language and images that are simple yet also have an underlying complexity that goes beyond what is on the page. His latest picture book is no exception. In The New Dog we meet Kiddo. Kiddo is very happy with the two snuggly futon beds, the water and food bowls, the king size bed he shares with his humans and the box full of stuff that Teddy has left behind. From this very first page Chris McKimmie reveals another layer to the story and gives us a subtle insight into the reason Kiddo has become part of this family. Kiddo loves to chew, dig, play, bark and eat anything left lying around or within reach on the kitchen bench! He’s also afraid of storms, hates baths and loves lying in the warm patches of sunshine in his yard. All the things you would expect from a loveable canine. Chris’s illustrations are a joy with bright colours and a slightly imperfect perspective that children love and see reflected in their own artwork. There is also a little help from his family for some of the drawings which adds to the feeling of warmth and inclusion in the images. There are clever plays on text direction and font changes which add to the fun and involvement for the reader. This warm and engaging story is a must have for anyone who has ever lost a canine friend and then experienced the delight of welcoming a new, playful, mischievous and instantly loveable family companion.
Chris McKimmie is an award-winning writer, illustrator and artist whose book I NEED A Parrot, won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award in 2020. His stories are always quirky, eye catching and totally relatable for younger readers. The New Dog, aimed at readers aged 4 +, could almost be seen as a sequel to Me, Teddy, the story of the family’s beloved black Labrador, and would make a wonderful addition to any collection of animal stories.
This review can also be found online in BuzzWordsMagazine
Supporting teaching themes could include animals, dogs, loss of a pet, families, grief and stylized artwork.
Find out more about Chris McKimmie
Published by Ford Street Publishing
ISBN 9781922696038 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 4 +
Sophie has to spend a lot of time in hospital. When her little sister visits, Sophie tells her lots of wonderful stories. There is one story that is her little sister’s favourite. It is about a very special place where they bounce off fluffy white clouds, get tickled by a long-armed feather duster, eat lots of fairy bread and even meet the Queen of Rainbows! They have star ball challenges and sip tea from golden cups made out of the sun. Sophie tells her little sister this is their special place, and that no matter what happens, she will always find her there.
IMAGINE OUR SPECIAL PLACE takes us on a journey of loss through the eyes of two young sisters but, rather than focus on the sadness, Kelly Louise Jarris concentrates on the warm and close relationship between the two, creating a story that is both comforting and uplifting. The text enables younger readers to connect with grief in a simple, age appropriate way and is beautifully supported by Sandunika Dissanayake’s rich, enchanting and colourful illustrations. IMAGINE OUR SPECIAL PLACE is a wonderful contribution to books about loss for children aged 3 to 5. Author interview to follow soon.
View the book trailer https://www.youtube.com/embed/c_ORbQCHdvA
Find out more about Kelly Louise Jarris
Published by InHousePublishing
ISBN 9781922717948 (PB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 5.
Thanks to Romi Sharp and Books On Tour PR & Marketing for access to the digital copy.
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