What Now Tilda B? by Kathryn Lomer

Jamie and I have got the whole thing down to a fine art by now. I say goodbye to Nan and Pop in the morning, head off on my bike for school, chain the bike up with all the others, then make a quick getaway. I take a change of clothes in my school bag, do a Clark Kent/Superman change wherever I can manage and, by the time Jamie swings by in his old Kombi, board in the back, I’m ready.
I never know where we’re going to end up. Today it’s Clifton. It’s a beautiful clear spring day and the waves are perfect small cylinders of green glass. Today I find myself feeling a bit jealous of the surfers. Usually I’m content to walk the beach or read, but today I’m restless and the waves look smooth and inviting. I try to imagine the power of the wave lifting me, whisking me through the air. Jamie’s so into it out there. I find myself envying his absorption. There’s just him and the wave.

Tilda is nearly sixteen, in Year 10 in a school that doesn’t offer Year 11 or Year 12. She has no idea what she wants to do next. She’s living with Nan & Pop, like she has been since Mum left to study. Mum’s back again, living in the house with Dad and Tilda’s younger brother, Luke. She has a boyfriend, Jamie, and a best friend Shelly. When an elephant seal beaches itself near her house, Tilda witnesses the birth of its calf, her life begins to change. For the first time in a while, she’s committed to something. Somehow focussing on just the one thing – keeping mother and baby elephant seal alive – helps Tilda to begin to take control of her life and to plan her future.

When the reader first meets Tilda, she’s a likeable but fairly directionless teenage girl. Her family life is in a sort of limbo and it seems that she is holding her breath to see what will happen with her parents. It’s given her an excuse to not focus on school, and to defer any decisions she might be considering. Tilda tells her story in first person, present tense, keeping the reader close. There are themes of family and choice, friendship and more. What Now, Tilda B? is a heartening coming of age story and Tilda begins to realise that the world is bigger than just her. There are opportunities for her but she needs to choose them. As she does, she also begins to see more of what’s happening around her. It helps her get perspective on her life and the lives of those around her. Recommended for secondary readers.

What Now, Tilda B?

What Now, Tilda B? Kathryn Lomer
UQP 2010

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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