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 +
When a little girl asks ‘Are you there? It’s so lonely in the dark!’, her older sister tells her to imagine they are feathers on a wing, and takes her on a journey of imagination to help her realise that she is never alone. Whether they are links in a daisy chain, stitches in a scarf, branches in an ancient tree, or stones in a bridge standing strong together, the older sister reminds the younger that they will always be connected, and always be part of a bigger whole in some way.
This is such a beautiful story and the words have a gentle, soothing quality to them that immediately draws the reader in. The lilting, rhythmic style is reminiscent of a hushaby song which is supported by the music, written in a minor key, that Maria Speyer has included in the endpapers. The stunning illustrations, also by the author, add to the dreamlike quality of the story, and the palette of soft blues, coral pinks and mustard yellows accentuate its ethereal nature. The hint of gold in the feathers and title text makes for a striking and dazzling cover.
Supporting teaching themes could include sisters, families, relationships, dreams, rhyming stories, music.
Find out more about Maria Speyer.
Published by University of Queensland Press (UQP)
ISBN: 9780702263255 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 4 - 7
School's out for the summer and eleven year old Alberta Bracken (or Birdy for short) is looking forward to sun, surf and hanging with her friends at the beach. But something's not right. Her best friend Sylvie is 'ghosting' her and not returning any calls or texts, her mum and dad are acting weird and her little sister, Clementine, is even more annoying than usual. Then she gets pushed off her bike by Seth Cromby and brakes her arm and has to have it in plaster for six weeks! There go her summer holiday plans. Things get even worse when her mum (bestselling author of Tammy Bracken's Guide To Modern Manners) and dad separate because he has been having a 'thing' with someone in town. Now she knows why everyone has been acting strange. How will she get through the holidays with no friends, a broken arm and a family that is falling apart? Enter Mikki Watanabe. He's from Birdy's school but they don't really know each other - yet. Mikki has just returned from Japan and invites Birdy to hang out at his place. He's is a budding film maker and really loves trees. He tells Birdy about 'forest bathing' and how trees communicate with each other, and the more Mikki tells her, the more curious Birdy becomes. They begin making YouTube nature shorts about a pine grove they discover hidden deep in the local forest, only to be shocked to learn it will be cut down soon! They HAVE to save these beautiful, ancient trees, but how?
This new story from Marion Roberts focuses on friendship, forests, and family. Her main characters introduce us to the science science of tree communication and their interconnectedness, and the importance of trees to our planet and our own wellbeing. She tackles the difficult issues of separation and kleptomania in a language that is easily accessible and relatable for tween readers, and at the heart of the story is the underlying theme of forgiveness. For young activists the story also provides concrete ideas on how to become involved in and promote a cause they are passionate about, without being didactic or out of reach for that age group. A quirky, warm hearted novel that will strike the right chord with its readers.
Themes for the classroom include families, friendship, social media, activism, forest bathing, the environment, risk taking, resilience, bullying and forgiveness.
Find out more about Marion Roberts
Link to lesson activities
Published 2022 by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760526795 (PB)
Recommended for ages 9 to 13