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Leaf Letters

By Lorena Carrington

Reviewed by Lara Cain Gray

If there is a formula for creating a wonderfully engaging junior fiction novel it must surely involve intrepid friends, hidden treasure and secret codes. Lorena Carrington is best known as an artist, with many titles for adults and children in her portfolio. Her first children’s release as author and illustrator demonstrates the artist’s skill of observing and documenting subtlety and fine detail, in human nature as much as the natural world, whilst taking the reader on an interactive puzzle solving journey.
Nine-year-old Hazel Bird is a girl who enjoys her own company. She also loves exploring the bush and photographing her finds – spider webs, spikey plants – or organising things into patterns, like sticks and leaves. She sometimes finds people confusing, which is why she prefers the company of echidnas and lizards. She is particularly confused about the behaviour of her best friend, which has left her more alone than usual.
But while roaming the landscape on one fortuitous day, she bumps into Cole, a boy who does not speak, but has pockets full of curious collectibles he uses to communicate. The pair come across an old locked box squished into a rotting log. Inside is a time capsule of letters, word puzzles, morse code and trinkets imploring the finder of the box to solve the riddles and return it to its original owner.  As the friends work on solutions, they take the reader with them, with nothing revealed until the end.
This beautiful story is a ‘quiet book’ for readers 6 to 10 years, celebrating nature play, neurodiversity, and friendship. Full of flora and fauna photography and hand written letter samples, it will be perfect for classroom or home school reading – the extension activities write themselves. At the same time, the book begins by addressing the reader (To the reader of this story, this book is for you…) suggesting the book is, itself, a treasure. A reader might scribble nature notes, press flowers, or create their own puzzles on the blank end pages. And maybe even hide it for someone else to find!
 Christmas Press 2024
Lorena Carrington 

Lara Cain Gray’s book The Grown Up’s Guide To Picture Books is being published in September this year.


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