The Letterbox Tree is by two of my favourite Australian authors, Rebecca Lim and Kate Gordon. As you’d expect from two such talented writers, this upper middle-grade/lower YA novel takes some extremely difficult and very real topics and wraps them up in a warm story of found friendship, self-belief and hope. The story is centred around two girls, Nyx and Bea, living 70 years apart, whose friendship grows through their mutual solace discovered within a very special tree.
Nyx and Bea may be separated by the decades, but they fast become bonded through their need for friendship and a yearning for someone who’ll listen and understand them. Surprisingly to both, they find that connection through the remarkable tree which stands tall and strong in Nyx’s time, when so much of nature hasn’t survived human deforestation, drought and the ravages of climate change.
The tree holds Bea and Nyx within its arms in their respective times, as they climb into its branches. And as they leave each other letters nestled in the tree, their connection grows roots.
Nyx is living in a climate ravaged future, where drought has turned to flood, and time is running out. Bea is determined to find a way to help her. Both are about to be forced to move from their beloved Hobart for different reasons and neither wants to go. When Nyx is swept up in a dangerous climate event, she asks Bea for help. But how can Bea do that when Nyx doesn’t even exist in her time?
This beautifully crafted story takes just the right amount of time to weave threads between the girls, as it takes the reader inside their thoughts and feelings through their letters and actions. It’s a stark and all too real look at the future, which makes you consider how our behaviour now might affect those who walk ahead of us. Difficult topics are handled sensitively and with heart, asking us to consider what we would do if we found a plea for help from the future.
It’s an ultimately empowering tale of hope, with the clear message that when we put each other and nature first, and when we work together, we can make great change. We all have a part to play.
Recommended for ages 10+ it would make an excellent book for classrooms, with many issues to explore, including grief, bullying, self-belief and the impacts of climate change. Most importantly it will empower young people to take the future into their own hands.
Teaching notes available here.