Thursday 21 April 2022

Mikki and Me and the Out-of-Tune-Tree

Mikki and Me and the Out-of-Tune-Tree by Marion Roberts (Allen & Unwin) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781760526795

Reviewed by Kerry Gittins

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 bully Seth Cromby, breaks 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 so 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 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 and are 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 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 to be explored in the classroom include risk taking, resilience, social media, friendship, families, forgiveness, forest bathing, kleptomania, bullying, activism, and the environment.

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