A copy of the teachers’ notes is below. The notes are available as a PDF: Please email eleineouston@yahoo.com.au with the message ‘teachers’ notes’ and they will be sent the same day.

The Mystery of Nida Valley is available from Peter Pal Library Supplierhttp://www.peterpal.com.au


The Mystery of

Nida Valley


Elaine Ouston




Genre: Fantasy fiction                          Word count: approx 68,000 words




 C1. Introduction                                    

 C2. Genre, structure and style     

C3. Plot summary                          

C4. Themes and symbols               

C5. Reading the text             

Class discussion – First Impressions

Discussion on text: Chapters One to Three

Literacy Component – keeping a journal.

C6. After Reading the text      

Class discussion: Characterisation, Storyline,

Class debate, Research Tasks, Review,

Extension activities.

  These notes may be reproduced free of charge for use and study within schools but they may not be reproduced (either in whole or in part) and offered for commercial sale.

Copyright Elaine Ouston Australia 2011.




After a career as a graphic artist, copywriter and marketing consultant, Elaine retreated from the rat race and turned to her long time dream of writing children’s fiction. She has a Master of Letters in Creative Writing. She teaches writing to adult and inspires children in school visits all over Australia, teaching them story structure and how to stimulate their imagination.

She is currently completing book three in The Mystery of Nida Valley series. Her previous published works include a short story the NSW School Magazine, Countdown, a column in Writing Queensland magazine, and a chapter book for early readers, Lost in a Strange Land published in 2005.

C 3. Plot Summary.

The Mystery of Nida Valley – A Magical Discovery is book one in a trilogy. The story is set in aQueensland country town, and a nearby hidden valley where time has stood still and Australian megafauna roam. The story contains ghosts, time travel, magic, and many adventures with these ancient animals. There are also dinosaurs; like the Muttaburrasauras, and the winged Pterosauradon that the children learn to ride. A deadly fire dragon adds further danger to the mix, along with a wicked ex-member of the magical group, The Guardians of Nida that cares for the valley. This breakaway member, Grundymere, wants to take control of the valley to exploit it for financial gain. He starts out trying to do so by peaceful means, but in the end will stop at nothing – even threatening the life of lead character Meg Sealy and anyone who stands in his way. 

Meg Sealy is just an ordinary fourteen-year-old, or so she believes. Her best friend Amanda goes missing while on a school excursion at the local historic manor. Ignoring her mother’s instruction to wait at home, she goes to help in the search. She meets up with a ghostly houseguest at Millson Manor before she and her cousin Jaiden find a secret passage, and end up getting lost themselves. They follow the passage, find Amanda, and end up in the valley. After drinking the water in a cave on the way, the girls develop their family’s magic powers of healing and mind control.

The story explores the personal growth of headstrong and confident Meg Sealy, as she learns of a destiny, that even with her wild imagination, she could not have seen coming. She is to assume her late grandmother’s role and become the next leader of The Guardians of Nida. Along with her friend Amanda, and cousin Jaiden, Meg is thrust into an unknown and dangerous world. The story follows developing relationships between them, and other members of the Guardians, as they come to terms with their magic abilities and face an uncertain future. The series is intended to entertain while at the same time educate the children about the Australian megafauna that roamed our unique land.

From her first day in the valley, Meg is the target of malicious attacks – someone is using the animals to scare or harm her, to stop her becoming The Grand Leader of The Guardians. There are many suspects and the search is on for the culprit.

On her first visit deep into the valley, Meg is shown a cave that legend says has a portal to the distant past. Only one of the Founding Family in every hundred years is able to time travel by this method, and Meg hopes that she is one of the chosen ones. The search for the time travel portal becomes urgent when the last remaining megafauna wombat becomes ill and needs a plant that no longer exists in the valley for its cure. A nail-biting, life or death period starts with the search. While on a trip to find the portal, a fire-breathing dragon traps them in the cave, with disastrous results for one of Meg’s friends. They finally escape, and mounted on their pteros, they head back to the homestead, only to fight for their lives on the way, in an air attack by an armed intruder. After a close brush with death, they finally manage to overcome their attacker.

The dragon is removed from the cave and they return, and find the portal. Further drama occurs as they go back in time to get the plant. They meet up and struggle with Grundymere. They finally return with the plant needed and save the wombat.

The plots and sub plots of this book are many and varied. Some will end in this book and others in the next two. This book ends with a twist with the discovery that a trusted member of the valley staff, John, is conspiring with the evil Grundymere. He is one of the people who have placed Meg in mortal danger. However, there are a couple of incidents that he couldn’t have caused. Along with Grundymere, a further traitor is sought. The story continues in book two.



Meg’s daydreaming is a form of escapism. In the movies in her mind, she is a different person – the exciting and successful person she would like to be. The world around her is a different and more exciting place.

An example is on P34. The minute she knows she is to be a healer she imagines she is the best in the world.  ‘Maybe I’ll be a great Healer when I grow up,’ she mused. Her scriptwriters busily created a new movie. She saw herself in a huge barn with people and their ailing animals lined up to see her. She healed them with a touch of her hands.’

The daydream continues, and later she imagines she is receiving the Nobel Prize for medicine. There are many more instances of Meg’s overactive imagination in the story.

 The mythical animals are a symbol of fantasy and help to add to the fantasy elements of the story.


Conservation/Protection of the Environment.

Growing Up/Learning about responsibility.


Managing Friendships/Relationships.


Class Discussion:

First impressions.

Read the first three chapters together as a class and talk about your impressions. The Mystery of Nida Valley is a fantasy / adventure story.

* Do you normally read in this genre?

* Has the author set the story up in these three chapters so that you have some idea of what to expect in the rest of the story?

* This book has time travel, magic, ghosts, dinosaurs, mythical creatures, and megafauna fromAustralia’s past. Consider what makes a good fantasy/adventure book.

* What are the common fantasy conventions?

* How hard is it to create an original fantasy/adventure story?

* Discuss how authors make these concepts plausible.

 Discussion on text – Chapters One to Three

Chapter One

* Read the first page of the novel again and imagine yourself in Meg’s position – what would you do? Would you go and look for your best friend or stay at home and wait for your mother?

* How would you feel if you met a ghost?

* Would you have drunk the water?

Chapter Two

* How would you react to the mythical dog, the Grim? Would you have been brave enough to run past him, or would you have frozen to the spot like Meg?

* Would you have been scared to follow the stranger into the unknown valley? Do you think they did the right thing?

* How would you feel if you discovered your life was a lie and you came from a magical family? Would you be happy or would you be scared at the thought.

Chapter Three

* Would you have been able to keep the secret and tell no-one about the valley?

* What would you do if you thought someone was following you?

* How would you feel if you discovered you had magic healing powers?

* What do you think the giant bird in the sky was?

 Literacy Component – keeping a journal.

As you read the rest of the book, write a response journal.

  1. Include a character chart where you map each character’s relationships and keep a record of everyone in the story.
  2. Record what magic powers they have, if any, and when and how it was exposed.
  3. Record all the animals, as they are introduced and their size, and relationship to any existing Australian animals (if any). Set them up under the headings: MYTHICAL ANIMALS, MEAGFAUNA, DINOSAURS.
  4. Take a note of your impressions and observations. You could include chapter summaries, comments on things that interest you, what you think is successful and what you think doesn’t work and why. Include your thoughts on characterisation, and speculation on what you think will happen in the next book.


Class discussion:


  1. Do you think the five main teen characters; Meg, Amanda, Jaiden, Michael, and Jack are believable as modern teens?
  2. Are their individual personalities obvious?
  3. Are the personalities of the adults in the story obvious and believable?

 Story line

  1. Did the author make the use of the magic in the story feasible?
  2. Did the book fulfil the expectations you had after the first three chapters? 
  3. Whom did you think was the person causing incidents that threatened Meg?
  4. Who else do you think is spying for Grundymere in the valley?
  5. Why do you think Miss Cashmere is so mean to Meg?
  6. Who do you think stole the pterosauradons?
  7. Why do you think Grundymere wants to know if Meg found the Time Travel Portal?
  8. What are your thoughts after finishing the story?
  9. Where there any parts you didn’t like?
  10. Did the ending leave you wanting to read the next book?

 Class debate

Question: Do you think the valley should be open to the public?                                Divide the class into two groups: those for the opening of the valley, and those against. Divide each group into teams of four and together write your thoughts for or against for the issue. Remember the idea is to convince the listener that you are right, so use persuasive words and construct a clear and coherent argument. Plan your argument first to ensure your ideas flow logically.

Research Task

 Choose an animal, (megafauna or mythical) or a dinosaur and see what extra information you can find about it that isn’t in the book. 


Write a book review of The Mystery of Nida Valley analysing the book’s merit. Use the information in your journal to assist you on this task. Find an example of a review to study its structure.

Consider the following elements:

* Plot

* Setting

* Characterisation (Are the characters believable? What are their motivations, relationships? Who are the heroes/heroines?)

* Narrative (What type of narration, point of view, tone is used?)

* Significance of style, language – is the language formal or colloquial. What sort of devices does the text use: metaphor, symbolism, motifs, imagery, or allusions? 

* Structure (How many chapters are there? Is the story told chronologically?)

* Pace (Is it fast paced right through the book or does it slow in places)

* What do you consider is the books climax?

* Consider the significance of the opening and ending – how effective are they?

* Was the story line predictable?

* What were the themes, issues, or concerns?

* Does the book have a message or moral?

* Who is the intended readership?

* Does the book’s title and cover picture tell you what to expect?

* What is the book’s genre?

* Who is the author?

You won’t need to include all of these points in your review; choose the ones you believe most relevant.

 Extension activities

  1. Design a new cover for the novel that you think would be relevant to the story and attract readers. Explain and justify your design in a written response or a talk.
  2. Choose a scene from the novel and write a script to act out as a group or a pair. The scene could be acted out on film, or in the classroom.
  3. Select a character from a scene in the book. Prepare a monologue as that character. Try to reveal your characters personality, thoughts, and feelings about that particular event.
  4. Create a storyboard or graphic novel from a scene in the novel using pictures and words.
  5. Take a scene from the book and rewrite it from the point of view of one of the other characters involved.
  6. If you liked The Mystery of Nida Valley, write and tell Elaine Ouston why. Or if someone in your class comes up with a question about the book that no one can answer, write and ask her about it. Email her at elaineouston@yahoo.com.au.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s