It was hope that made grass grow and waves rise and babies stand. And when the grass got trampled, the waves crashed down and babies toppled over, it was hope that made them stretch up all over again.
(‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon’, page 34)
Title: ‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon’
Author: Edwina Wyatt
Illustrator: Katherine Quinn
Publisher: Walker Books
Age Range: lower primary – middle primary class read aloud or independent read. 8 years +.
Themes: secrets, honesty, authenticity, friendship, family, siblings, new baby, community, school.
For those who love picture books, Edwina Wyatt will likely already be known to you as the award winning author of titles such as ‘Together Always’, ‘Fox and Bird’, ‘In the Evening’ and ‘Ponk!’ and now she has made her junior fiction debut with the truly gorgeous, ‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon’
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Magnolia Moon is nine years old, likes Greek mythology, her cat Atlas, her best friend Imogen May (who understands the importance of questions like, “If you could be one fruit, any fruit, what would you be?”), wishing trees, and speaking crows. She knows instinctively that buffadillos are armadillos crossed with buffalos and believes there are walramingos living in her garden. Magnolia Moon wakes each day with thoughts that sprout like bean shoots or hatch from her head like a spring chicken (the spring chicken thought then staggered and sneezed as actually Magnolia was unwell that morning). She’s also the kind of person who can be entrusted with a great many secrets.
ChickPea (8) and I enjoyed this one as a read aloud and I had to make her pinky promise she would not read ahead after I turned the lights out as ‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon’ was a book that I wanted to savour together. When I find the perfect bedtime read aloud (and this occurs less frequently than you might expect), I really enjoy each word, fall into the storytelling and try to commit to memory that feeling of being squished beside an adored small person. Do not for a second think that all nights are like this in the Daley Household, they are far from this image of instagram worthy perfection, but bedtime books like ‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon’ help create the sparkly memories to get you through the tough times!
“What have you got?” said Magnolia Moon, peering hungrily into Casper Sloan’s brown paper bag. It was only Tuesday, but Magnolia felt hungry enough for Wednesday’s and Thursday’s lunch too. Plus a hot chocolate.
(‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon’, page 115)
Each chapter in this novel captures a snippet in Magnolia’s year of being nine and each is a nicely contained story which, as you read, start to form an overall narrative which chronicles a year of big changes for Magnolia. From her best friend moving to the birth of her little brother Finnegan, Magnolia navigates every challenge and secret that comes her way with the kind of authenticity and innocence that comes from being nine years wise.
Wyatt’s writing is sophisticated and elegant with a nice splash of quirkiness and gentle humour which made ChickPea chuckle every few pages. Illustrator Katherine Quinn is an established artist from New Zealand and Magnolia Moon is her first foray into the world of children’s literature. I’m sure Quinn is going to find herself right at home in literary land; in good news, she seems to have a few more bookish projects on the go already. Her whimsical illustrations are the perfect fit for Wyatt’s gentle words and the carefully considered book design allows space for both the illustrations and the text to take turns on centre stage but also support and extend one another.
Magnolia loved the busy hum of the town square in the morning, like an orchestra getting ready to perform. Everybody was tuning up, looking for the right note to play.
(‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon, p.98)
‘The Secrets of Magnolia Moon’ is for readers who have enjoyed stories such as ‘The Cleo Stories’ (slightly younger audience), ‘Violet Mackerel’ and ‘Ruby Red Shoes’. It also has the same magic that is found in the ‘Kingdom of Silk’ series by Glenda Millard, which I will not let ChickPea read until she is exactly 9.5 (or Almost Ten as Magnolia Moon might say), the perfect age to inhale this exquisite series in my opinion. I feel that Magnolia Moon and Tishkin Silk (from Millard’s series) would be dear friends if they were to meet inside the pages of the book. I have a lovely daydream sometimes that the characters in my favourite books come out to play in the school library each night…
Pick up your pencils and brushes Edwina Wyatt and Katherine Quinn, we need another volume of Magnolia Moon stories.