I grew up reading Paul Jennings and watching addictive episodes of Round the Twist. Jennings is Australian kid lit royalty and many 80s and 90s kids will be familiar with his work.
But The Lorikeet Tree is new. The Lorikeet Tree is different. It’s a sideways step from the quirky Jennings stories you might remember, but it’s no less stunning or addictive.
In The Lorikeet Tree, Emily and her twin brother Alex receive some devastating news. Their father has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Thus begins the hardest year of their lives, as they try their best to look after their father, look after the rural forest property they live on and stop fighting with each other. Emily isn’t the same as her brother. She loves him, but they are wildly different people, so none of this is easy. She must find the courage to do the right thing, to look out for her brother — even when his behaviour sometimes challenges her morals.
This is a beautiful story told in a very unique way. I want to tell you its secrets, but I won’t, because discovering them is part of this literary journey and I don’t want to spoil it for you. But I will say this isn’t a typical start to end book. It won’t be exactly what you expect.
With rich characters who reveal ALL their flaws, it’s the kind of book kids will read and remember forever. Through Emily’s internal struggles, you’re forced to look inside yourself and consider so many different topics. It asks readers to think about family struggles, having to be an adult when you’re still a kid, environmental issues and right verses wrong.
Big stuff, and yet the way Jennings delivers this book… it’s like he’s holding your hand through it all.
This will be a more challenging read than some on the middle grade shelf, but it shouldn’t be missed. I am forever changed after reading it, and you will be too.
And isn’t that what we hope for when we open a book?
Title: The Lorikeet Tree
Author: Paul Jennings
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, $19.99
Publication Date: 31 January 2023
For ages: 11 – 14
Type: Middle Grade