TitleA Small Collection of Happiness

Author: Zana Fraillon

With illustrations by: Stephen Michael King


Publication date: May 2024

Themes: Happiness, hope, true friendship, community, connection, the power of treasured memories and story.

Comprehensive Teachers Resources are available to download on the Hachette Australia website here

By chance, an older woman ends up living in a run-down apartment with a young girl as her neighbour and by choice they bond and become inseparable dear friends. At first, the pair seem polar opposites in every way. In A Small Collection of Happiness by Zana Fraillon, with illustrations by Stephen Michael King and published by Hachette, Ada is an older, cranky, impatient woman, set in her ways and Hettie is a young, exuberant, highly curious, carefree girl who cares deeply for the environment, yet they thrive on the emotional connection they share.  These quirky characters have a number of commonalities, they have both lost a loved one they had a close bond with, they have big imaginations, believe in the power of story, are adventurous and find utter joy in nature and the simple pleasures life has to offer. This is a multilayered story about happiness, hope, true friendship, community, connection, the power of treasured memories and story.

Ada arrives at 9 Hawkhurst Lane in the middle of the tempestuous “Great Summer Storm” with a mysterious envelope tucked in her pocket. From the moment she arrives her grouchy and fussy nature are evident.

After a night of mysterious noises and happenings in the unit next to Hettie, the one where no one has lived since the “Terrible Events” (there are rumours and theories surrounding these and a rational explanation of why the property has been abandoned by Ada is forthcoming), Hettie decides to investigate who or what the source of this commotion is. This investigation leads to a not very amicable meeting with Ada. After a few conversations where the pair bicker, they finally have cause to reach an agreement. It is the arrival of a mysterious parcel which they each claim was sent to themselves. Over tea and Friendship Biscuits they open the parcel together, a book of fairy tales, that they decide to share and end up bonding over.

Sharing a book means they see each other often and this becomes an opportunity to learn from and with each other. Ada decides to begin a collection of happiness and invites Hettie to explore with her at first light to source treasured pieces for this. These dawn adventures afford them such beautiful gifts – stillness, seeing the sleepy world wake and all that comes with this – new noises, shadows, imaginings, heightened senses and shooting stars to wish upon.

There are several mysterious happenings in this story that the reader discovers are all interrelated – a mysterious creature lurking in the shadows, a rumour about a panther on the loose, a silver box buried that contains photos and Ada’s envelope (which the reader discovers is Ada’s reason for being at Hawkhurst Lane and is a connection to her past). These sightings, items and circumstances turn out to be a source of healing for Ada and Hettie and a way for them to work together to solve a mystery as well as save their building that has been ordered to be demolished. 

This is such a unique, whimsical story with elements of magical realism and captivating, often abstract, illustrations by Stephen Michael King peppered throughout.  

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