Tag Archives: Gambling

How to Grow a Family Tree – Eliza Henry Jones

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Harper Collins Australia

March 2020

  • ISBN: 9781460754955
  • ISBN 10: 1460754956
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 22.99 AUD

Seventeen year old Stella knows exactly how to help people – after all, she’s read self-help books all her life. Her friends and family often are the beneficiaries of the wealth of her accumulated wisdom.  Best friends Clem, Zin and Lara regularly think she’s a little weird with her psycho-babble but affectionately embrace it. Her family – Dad, Mum and sister Taylor – are a little less enthusiastic and at times exasperated.

Stella has always known she’s adopted and that has never been a problem for her until, that is, a letter arrives from her birth mother and she discovers that over the past ten years there were others, carefully put away by her mum until she might be ready for them.  The timing could not be worse. Dad’s gambling problem has driven down the family finances to such an extent that they must give up their house and move to Fairyland caravan park – literally the worst address in town, infamous for meth labs exploding and  filled, it appears, with the most dubious of characters.

Rather than the vice-filled wasteland redolent with crime and the dregs of society that she has imagined, Stella slowly begins to discover that Fairyland is, in reality, a community and, more importantly, that not everyone needs her help – at least, not in the way she’s always pushed it onto people.  The complicated chaos of her family life combined with keeping the secret of their new address from her friends and then the unravelling secrets about her origins as she attempts to get to know her ‘other’ family ensure a great  narrative which explores the nuances of relationships and the shades of right or wrong that exist in any human situation.  Stella realises that it is she who needs helping as much as anyone else and it is her Fairyland experience that provides it.

There is much humour in this novel along with the pathos and over-arching themes of compassion, respect and truth all of which make for compelling reading.  Readers will find much upon which to reflect – addiction, domestic abuse, the definition of family, relationships, perceptions and stereotyping among others and while it is complex it is also highly engaging and very readable.

It’s a fantastic read which I ate up over two nights and one I will enjoy sharing with my students.

I highly recommend it for astute readers from around 13/14 years upwards.

Click to access How-to-Grow-a-Family-Tree-Teachers-Notes.pdf