Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky (Robert Newton, Puffin)
Thirteen-year-old Lexie lives in a grey housing commission flat in Melbourne and dreams of starting a new life on the Sunshine Coast. She’s struggling to deal with her junkie mum, missing her dad and wishing people would stop mistaking her for a boy. But then a cruel and unexpected act causes Lexie to become friends with ‘the Creeper’, the strange old man who lives in number 22C and whose real name is Mr Romanov; Lexie and her know-it-all mate Davey spend their school holidays cleaning up Mr Romanov’s cluttered apartment and helping him create a thriving garden on the rooftop of their building. It’s then that Lexie decides to take the future into her own hands—she persuades Davey and Mr Romanov to come along for the ride, and the three embark on an adventure that leads them to some unexpected places. Mr Romanov’s Garden in the Sky is a delightful and compelling tale with a strong sense of contemporary multicultural Australia and a vivid cast of characters—Lexie, in particular, is an engaging and relatable narrator. Author Robert Newton tackles big themes—overcoming loss, being comfortable in your own skin and not judging others based on their appearance—with humour and a light touch that’s sure to resonate with middle-grade readers.
Carody Culver is a freelance writer and editor and a bookseller at Avid Reader