Title: Mikki and Me and the Out-of-Tune Tree
Author: Marion Roberts
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 29th March 2022
Synopsis: After becoming attuned to the songs of the forest and setting up a successful social media nature channel, Alberta Bracken and Mikki Watanabe are determined to pull out all the stops to save their local grove of trees in this thoroughly enjoyable novel for young readers.
Eleven-year-old Alberta Bracken is having a terrible summer. After a bike-riding accident, caused by the local bully, her arm’s in a cast so she can’t do her most favourite holiday activity: boogie boarding at the local beach. And her little sister Clementine is EXTREMELY ANNOYING.
To make matters worse, her mum (bestselling author of Tammy Bracken’s Guide to Modern Manners) has sent her dad packing – after discovering his behaviour has been far from…well-mannered.
So when budding filmmaker Mikki Watanabe suggests they start a YouTube channel about the secret life of trees – Alberta is ALL IN. And when they discover their trees are earmarked for removal by the local council it’s suddenly a race against time to save them.
Funny, warm and a little offbeat, this highly entertaining novel hits all the right notes for middle-fiction readers.
Alberta Bracken’s summer holidays have been ruined – the local bully, Seth Cromby, has caused an accident, and she’s ruined her bike and broken her arm. Goodbye boogie boarding! So now Alberta is stuck at home, watching her little sister Clementine walk around on stilts, training for the circus, watching her father leave home, and her mother preparing for a big talk about manners based on her book, Tammy Bracken’s Guide to Modern Manners – but her mother is hiding a secret of her own, and her parents are determined to keep things from her.
Then Mikki Watanabe comes to town for the summer and introduces Alberta to a secret life of trees and the songs trees sing. As they begin a YouTube channel about a local forest, they find out it is going to be destroyed. So Mikki and Alberta set out to save their forest, and show how important it is to the community and eco-system, whilst bringing everyone together again. And bringing friends and maybe even enemies together.
Mikki and Me and the Out-of-Tune Tree combines environmentalism, cross-cultural communication, family, friendship, and community to create an engrossing story that allows the kids to be kids, whilst examining the adults in their life – and showing that nobody is truly perfect. It allows the characters to be imperfect, and to eventually grow and learn from their mistakes, whilst recognising that sometimes, change takes time. It shows that even the smallest voices can be heard, and that if all work towards inclusion, and sharing what we know with others, we can build a community and find ways to come together and unite a town. And save a forest from destruction. One small environmental action can have a big impact and can be more far-reaching that anyone imagined.
It is a gentle book about making new friends and finding new interests that eventually unite your community. There have been a lot of quiet and contemplative books on all sorts of topics lately, and it has been quiet nice to be able to read them and sit with them as they explore things that fast-paced books often don’t, and allowing the characters and their stories to take a starring role, and evoking a sense of calm for the reader as they explore issues that might not always be talked about or easy to talk about. I also loved that this book left some things to the imagination, reassuring kids that there will always be times when things don’t necessarily work out or come to a final conclusion, letting them know that it is okay to not have all the answers all the time.