Catch a Falling Star by Meg McKinlay

It’s 1979 and the sky is falling.

Skylab, that is.

Skylab, the U.S. space station is starting to break up and will re-enter earth’s atmosphere. NASA can’t control Skylab’s path or predict exactly where the pieces might land. Western Australia is on its flight path. As everyone focuses on the sky, Skylab brings back memories that 12-year-old Frankie Avery has tucked away of nights in the Space Shack gazing at stars on clear cloudy nights with her Dad an amateur astronomer before he went missing.

As Frankie makes a solar system birthday cake for her little brother Newt, it reminds her of her family. Frankie, Newt and Mum are like the planets rotating around the sun in their own orbits, near each other but not touching. These days Mum is working long hours and doesn’t talk about Dad. Frankie feels like she is the one keeping their family together, cooking meals and watching out for Newt while keeping up with her school work and finding time for her best friend Kat.

Newt is an 8-year-old with a curious mind who inhales facts and loves doing science projects. When he starts obsessively gathering data on Skylab and tracking its every move, Frankie wonders what Newt is up to as she tries to keep her smart, but accident prone brother safe from harm. As Skylab tumbles to earth, Newt is torn between the scientific facts he knows are true and the wish he has in his heart. “Did you know,” he says, “that even if you wish for something really hard … I mean, really really hard… that it still doesn’t make any difference?” 

When Skylab finally crashes to earth it brings Frankie and Newt’s Dad back to their family in an unexpected way.

Catch a Falling Star is a poignant, and beautifully written story about wishing and hoping and holding on and letting go when you lose someone special in your life. It will touch your heart.

Find out more about Meg McKinlay who is a children’s writer and poet who lives near the ocean in Fremantle, Western Australia.

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

Missing by Sue Whiting

I could not put this book down!

When I read the first three chapters of Missing to a Year 5 class, they were hooked from the first line…‘In the dead of the night we ran away.’

Mackenzie da Luca’s mother is missing. Maggie da Luca is a scientist who specialises in bats. When visiting the small town of Boquete in Central America she vanishes without a trace in the jungles of Panama. After her mother has been missing for 114 days, Mackenzie’s dad is still desperate for answers and sneaks off at night with Mackenzie in tow to Panama to find the truth. Mackenzie however has her own theory about her mother’s disappearance and is not sure if she wants her dad to find her mum.

The story alternates between ‘Then’ in Sydney as 12 year old Mackenzie and her family attempt to adjust to life without her mother and ‘Now’ in Panama where Mackenzie is reluctantly searching for clues with her dad. By weaving together the family’s life before and after Maggie’s disappearance, Sue Whiting gradually reveals the pieces of this mystery puzzle.

Mackenzie is a resilient girl, but it’s not easy beginning secondary school without your old primary school friends and the support of your mother. She finds comfort in her sketching and is befriended by the rebellious Billie who takes her under her wing.

When she arrives in Panama, Mackenzie finds it confronting to be wandering the streets of Boquete where her mother was last seen and finds herself wondering…

Did she walk along here? Did the people in the shops and on the street see her? Speak to her on her last day here? Am I walking right past someone who might have seen her get on the bus back to David, leaving Boquete? Or someone who actually knows what happened to her?’ 

A chance meeting with a wildlife worker sets Mackenzie off doing her own risky detective work and asking herself…Is it is better to know or not know the truth about her missing mother?

If you’re in Year 5 and 6 and like a mystery with twists and turns and a roller coaster ride of emotions then Missing is the book for you.

Happy reading!

Teacher notes