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

Dr Boogaloo and The Girl Who Lost Her Laughter by Lisa Nicol

Can you imagine what your life would be like without laughter?

Dr Boogaloo is no ordinary doctor. Strange disorders and unusual complaints are his specialty. Dr Boogaloo is the doctor you see when you have Talks In Slow Motion Syndrome or You Can Only Sleep Hanging Upside Down Syndrome. Dr Boogaloo and his family use the most powerful medicine of all to cure patients…music! The Boogaloo Family Clinic of Musical Cures has never had a complaint that couldn’t be cured until Blue arrived. Ten-year-old Blue hasn’t laughed for 712 days!

Dr Boogaloo suspects Blue has No Laughing Syndrome and sends her to The Snorkel Porkel Crumpety Worpel Laughter Clinic to be sure. Unlike you and I, Blue doesn’t laugh or even giggle at the Tickle Machine, blooper reels, hula-hooping cats in bikinis, YouTube videos of epic fails, or even at Gassy Gus who can blow up balloons with his bottom.

Dr Boogaloo has two weeks to compose an urgent cure for Blue before she loses her laughter forever. Blue needs the right dose of the right music, but there’s no point listening to a jive if you’re in need of some boogie-woogie, and you can’t just substitute a toot for a blow! Blue patiently listens to talented musicians playing music and instruments she didn’t know existed and even summons the courage to swim with Leonard the Blues singing humpback whale in an attempt to help her laugh again. It isn’t until Dr Boogaloo has almost given up in despair that he finds the cure he needs for Blue in an unexpected place.

One of my favourite parts of the story is the daily ride Blue takes to the clinic on Bessie’s extraordinary iBike. This strange contraption looks like it has an entire orchestra collapsed on it and plays over a million tunes that change with the landscape as you ride along. It would be fun to draw or make your version of the iBike (and even include music and a matching landscape) after reading the fabulous description on pages 41-42.

This is a quirky, funny and sometimes sad story that celebrates laughter, friendship and the power and magic of music.

“Not everyone hears the right music – or knows how to listen. And they suffer terribly… if you don’t let your heart fly, your tune gets right out of whack. It’s a bit like spending your whole life indoors – it’s just not good for your health.” (Bessie)

Happy reading!

Teaching notes