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+
The Old Kingdom is a place of great magic, and one that eighteen-year-old orphan Terciel, the Abhorsen-in-waiting, has to understand and navigate if he is to take over from his great-great- aunt Tizaneal. Tizaneal is the current Abhorsen and a master of the Charter – ancient magic cultivated and practised to ensure the Dead do not return to life. Terciel must learn the art of the Charter and the secrets behind the seven bells that have somehow chosen him if he is to become the next Abhorsen. On the other side of The Wall that separates the Old Kingdom and the non-magical land of Ancelstierre lives a young woman, Elinor, who knows nothing about the mark on her forehead, or about magic and enchantment. She has been raised by Mrs Watkins, her governess, and Ham, an old theatre and circus performer, at Coldhallow House. Elinor’s mother has always been distant, even more so now she has taken to her bed. She doesn’t speak but sometimes hums softly. As she hums, a thin layer of ice seems to form over her skin. When Elinor informs the doctor and Mrs Watkins of this peculiarity, they exchange worried glances and the doctor simply says, ‘The North.’ Elinor has no idea what has just passed between the two, but when Terciel suddenly appears at Coldhallow and begins questioning both Mrs Watkins and Ham, Elinor realises there is much she has not been told about her past. Little does she realise that from now on, hers and Terciel’s lives are inextricably entwined, and she will play a pivotal role in the Abhorsen’s fight against Kerrigor, the most powerful of the Dead.
This is the prequel to Sabriel, the first in the Old Kingdom series. Terciel and Elinor are Sabriel’s parents, but we are not made aware of how this came to be until this, the sixth book. Here we follow the story of how Terciel and Elinor met, their journeys into the Old Kingdom, how they became masters of their magical crafts, and how they fell in love. Garth Nix never fails to engage readers with superbly crafted characters and storylines. He is a master at weaving together complex and intricate backstories along with important secondary characters to create an enthralling, fast paced fantasy adventure that will have you hooked from the very first page.
Find out more about Garth Nix
Find out more about The Old Kingdom series
Published by Allen & Unwin
Release date: 30 May, 2023
ISBN: 9781761069970 (PB)
Highly recommended ages 14 +
Teaching themes could include fantasy, magic, kingdoms, relationships, playwrights, theatre, circus performers.
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
While two children are holidaying with their Nana, they stumble across a piggybank that their Pop had kept tucked away for a rainy day. Inside they find a shimmering green banknote that sparkles with magic and immediately flies out the door. The children quickly follow, eventually finding themselves in front of a huge department store named WIZARD & CO. Inside, the chief goblin informs them that a one hundred pound Hocus Pocus note is a lot of money, and tells them to 'Expect the unexpected - this is magic after all!' He guides them through the eight levels or floors, each one a riot of colour, curiosities and surprises. Level one has rainbow makers and flying toasters, level two is where books come alive, level 3 has wonderful food (watch out for the blackbird pies!) and level four is where the teddy bears are having their tea. On level five they find train sets with tiny people, and up on level six is where games are played including snakes and ladders - with real snakes! Levels seven and eight are full of intriguing gardens and giant sized lollies. As they reach the check out ready to pay for the wondrous things they've chosen, the note takes off again to the very top floor, where a wise old wizard gives them a choice - keep all they have chosen, or buy a new wheelchair for their Nana Claire, whose wheels have fallen of her old wheelchair. A mixture of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium, this book is full of stunning illustrations that invite the reader to look again and again to see what they can find. Even on the very last page there's a secret code to decipher! Kindness, being mindful of the choices we make, and putting others needs before your own, are the themes embedded within this lyrical rhyming story and, as the wizard so eloquently says, 'A simple act of giving is the most magical of all.' A delight for younger readers and a must have for all library collections.
Kindness, empathy, disabilities, toys, wizards, book characters, money, inventions, board games, gardening, plants and coding could all be linked as teaching ideas for the classroom from this beautiful picture book.
Find out more about Mitchell Toy here.
Published 2021 by Five Mile Press.
ISBN 9781922514486 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 7