Sunday 3 September 2023

Meet Me at the Moon Tree

Meet Me at the Moon Tree by Shivaun Plozza (UQP) Paperback RRP $16.99 ISBN 978 0 702286171

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Plozza is an award-winning children’s and YA author from Geelong, Victoria. She has won numerous awards and her writing has been shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the year. Her books include Frankie, Tin Heart, The Boy, the Wolf, and the Stars and A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic.

Meet Me at the Moon Tree is a middle grade novel that is a unique, compelling, powerful read. Ten-year-old Carissa is obsessed with moon trees. Moon trees are magical and have been planted from seeds that were taken into space. Carissa believes that if she can find a moon tree in the forest of the Otway ranges she’ll be able to find a way to her dad. He recently passed away from leukemia, so the family moved house to heal but are still grappling with the raw pain. The themes of grief, change, friendship, science, nature, and healing are inside the covers of this sensitive book where science and magic meet.

Dad said everything is magic...and science is just figuring out how magic works.

Plozza has created a story that dives deep into the internal and external world of Carissa. The character and the reader can become one as they are privy to Carissa’s thoughts and feelings. The strong voice is engaging and the plot hooks in the emotional investment of a reader. I love the Australian setting which is the Otway ranges in Victoria. The secondary characters include grandparents, parents, siblings, friends and community members and they reflect family dynamics and living in a regional part of Australia very well.

Family dynamics really are at the heart of this story.  I finish the rest of the cake and I feel happy, but I feel weird too: guilty for being happy and anxious because I don’t know what’s missing. It’s not just Dad - he’s always missing. The dialogue suits each character and their age, knowledge, and interests. ‘Don’t be a drongo, Jack’ says Grandpa.

As the tension builds, so does the reader’s knowledge, yet the magical element of the story always remains. The ending is satisfying and helpful to anyone healing from trauma or grief. I love the message that often the things that remain unspoken allow hurt and pain to remain.

Meet Me at the Moon Tree is for readers aged ten years and up. It is a story that can make you cry and still believe in the power of magic. Natural places really are the best places to go to heal and connect. I can see this book helping those dealing with loss in a profound way. The book has comprehensive teacher notes available from the UQP website. It is a book that will find its way into many hearts.

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