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+
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