Zanni Lousie is a well-known author of many wonderful picture books for children and a supporter of the children’s literary community in Australia. She runs workshops and retreats for writers, hosts a podcast and mentors other writers. Her first middle grade novel, Queenie In Seven Moves, was published by Walker Books in 2023 and Candlewick in 2024. Her new middle grade, Cora Seen and Heard will be released May 2024.
Queenie in Seven Moves is told across a summer in the life of Queenie at the end of year 7. Covid-19 is restricting gatherings and visits to aged care homes, with a wider impact on people’s lives with many moving from the cities to escape the impacts of the pandemic. This places pressure on the rental market and as Queenie and her mum are forced to move from their beloved ‘Peachy’, they shift from one temporary home to another. This includes Diamonds, the aged care home where Queenie’s mum works, a derelict caravan in the bush at a sort-of commune, where one of Queenie’s teachers lives, and the home of a boy from school called Dory, who is a chess master and someone Queenie is surprised to find, she likes very much.
As she travels across these seven moves, Queenie makes new friends, new discoveries about herself, her mum and those around her, and finds the courage to share her voice. This is a lovely story of discovering your voice, giving people a chance and learning to go with the flow a little in life.
A sensitive, timely story addressing loss and belonging.
To Queenie, home is Peachy, the little house where she’s lived forever. But when she and her mum have to leave Peachy, Queenie discovers that home isn’t a place at all. It’s making new friends and reconnecting with old ones, letting yourself be uncomfortable, and finding the courage to share your song with the world.
From the opening pages of this tender-hearted story, I was drawn in by Queenie’s voice and connected with her character at a time where her world was being shaken from a variety of sources, including Covid-19, losing her home, and her mother’s new relationship with a real estate agent who Queenie thinks is ‘shiny’. I connected strongly with Queenie, who is a talented singer aching to share her voice with the world, but too afraid to step into the spotlight. Queenie is overshadowed by Sparrow, a girl who used to be her friend, but who now always seems to be a step ahead of her.
Zanni has cleverly woven a story where the impacts of Covid-19 thrum in the background, along with the rental crisis and the many people who are seeking a more permanent home. She also weaves themes relevant to this age group, such as crushes and the first kiss, learning not to judge people by their appearances, and the transition to high school. Kindness and acceptance feature throughout the story, with a diverse cast of characters, and a perfect sprinkling of humour.
In the author notes, Zanni explains that the experience of being homeless and having to stay in temporary accommodation is taken from her own experience in 2019, when her family were forced to move from their beloved rural property after the owners put it up for sale. This resulted in her own challenges in finding a home, and indeed, a summer of many moves.
I loved the relationship between Queenie and Audrey in particular, one of the residents of the aged care home, and the way in which her relationship with Dimitri the real estate agent blossoms in later chapters. Through the different adults Queenie meets in her travels, we see aspects of her personality and the development of her beliefs about the world. Her friendship with Dory and Sparrow are perfectly drawn, and young readers will see themselves in these characters and relationships and the ways in which Queenie deals with her changing friendships.
This is a beautifully written book for ages 10+. Teaching notes are available here