Title: Meet Me at the Moon Tree
Author: Shivaun Plozza
Publisher: University of Queensland Press – (UQP)
Publication date: July 4, 2023
Themes: Love, grief, acceptance, hope, courage, science, trees and magic
Additional notable information: Comprehensive teachers’ notes can be downloaded from the UQP website here.
Love and loss, family dynamics and how grief can impact these, intergenerational unbreakable bonds, authentic friendship, the restorative and healing power of nature, moon trees, science and a generous sprinkle of magic are some of the themes readers will engage with and be moved by in Meet Me at the Moon Tree by Shivaun Plozza. This powerful story is told from the perspective of ten-year-old Carina, she refers to herself as a scientist, specifically a dendrologist. She is driven to search for a moon tree. Her dad told her about these magical trees. The seeds from these trees were taken by Colonel Stuart Roosa in 1971 aboard the Apollo 14 Mission to the moon and when Roosa arrived home they were germinated and then planted all around the world. Carina and her dad vowed they would travel the world looking for moon trees. They had a plan. However, tragically Carina’s dad never had the opportunity to see a moon tree as he passed away from acute myeloid leukaemia. Carina is determined to honour her promise to her dad and relies on a plan using scientific methods that they both formulated. She also has the knowledge that her dad saw a photograph of the forest that borders what becomes their new home and he suspected a moon tree would be growing there. Spurred on by this knowledge and armed with the plan, Carina is determined to find this moon tree, a connection to her dad. While this book does have heavy themes it is balanced with wry humour, strong family bonds, wise, supportive grandparents and a narrative that leaves hope for the characters and their future.
Carina’s family are all, in their own unique ways, grappling with the loss of her father. Carina acutely feels the changes in her Mum and her fourteen year old brother Jack. She used to enjoy pea flinging competitions with Jack, now he is quick to anger and has little to do with her as he is now consumed by his computer games. When he does communicate, it’s usually snarky. Carina’s mum thought a tree change would be just the thing they needed and she moved the family to a fixer-upper in Forrest, Victoria. She spends every waking hour buried in renovation projects on the home, often working into the early hours of the morning in an attempt to escape her unfathomable grief. Gramps (Carina’s paternal grandfather) also lives with them. He and Nana June (Carina’s maternal grandmother) are both wise, nurturing and unwavering sources of love and support for Carina (and her family). One other light in Carina’s life is her new friend Betty. She is unlike any other friend Carina has had. Betty is accepting, fiercely loyal, highly supportive, deeply caring and a true friend to Carina.
At the heart of this story is the power of hope amongst the unbearable pain, missing and sense of loss. It explores Carina’s need to talk about her Dad to keep his precious memory alive which is at odds with her mother and brothers grief. It is about having the courage and determination to follow your dreams and how friends (in Carina’s case this also comes in the form of an animal, Colin, a black cockatoo) add some magic and sparkle when all seems lost. This story shows that it takes immense courage to speak from your heart and this is the foundation for healing to begin.
This absorbing story made me feel … deeply. I cried, cheered, laughed, was angry and in disbelief. Mostly, I felt Carina’s heart, related to her sense of loss and the need to talk about an adored, departed loved one. This book highlights how grief is such a personal journey, different for everyone. As with all books, please read this story to assess suitability for the children you intend to share the book with. The personal experiences and histories of children reading this book need to be taken into consideration.