I stared into the shark’s unblinking eye. The voices grew louder. It felt like they were calling me. I tried to understand, but the mako’s black eyes were frightening. I looked away.
The voices stopped.
Isabel (Izzy) and her mother are returning home to the place she was born – an island in Papua New Guinea. Izzy loves her home, but this time, her journey is sad. They are taking the ashes of her much-loved twin brother home to be scattered.
On the island, Izzy and her mother start to heal, but Izzy also sees that the island is changing. The environment is changing, threatened by logging and modern technologies, and the sharks no longer answer the cries of the village shark callers. The clan needs someone to take an offering deep beneath the sea in a traditional offering to the shark god. The person must be a twin from the shark-calling lineage. Lizzie is the last twin. I will take great courage to even attempt the challenge.
The Shark Caller is a gripping, moving story of bereavement and courage, combining contemporary realism with fantasy elements. The issues of grief and of family obligations are combined with broader issues of environmental change and the impact of modernisation on traditional communities and ecocultures.
Suitable from readers in upper primary and beyond.
The Shark Caller, by Dianne Wolfer
Penguin Books, 2016
Annie giggles. Her pets shiver and slip back into their shells. She lines them up on her legs, sits very still and waits. The snails peep out. They stretch, then race each other to Annie’s ankles. It’s a very slow race.
Annie loves snails, so after it rains she collects six of them and keeps them as pets. She races them, she plays with them, she even gives them names. She is very happy with her pet snails. The problem is, it seems they might not be happy with her.
Annie’s Snails is a delightful story of pets, family and care for the natural world. Part of Walker Books’ ‘Walker Stories’ imprint, the book is broken into three stories, though together they make up one longer story that traces Annie’s adventures in first capturing then caring for the snails before finally deciding to release them.
Suitable for newly independent readers making the transition to books with chapters, there is illustrative support on every page in the form of gray-scale pictures by talented new-comer Gabriel Evans.
A fun offering.
Annie’s Snails , by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Gabriel Evans
Walker Books, 2014
Available from good bookstores and online .
Now I understand why the landing on April 25th is being called heroic.
We’ve landed in hell.
Bob didn’t make it. He was hit as we struggled ashore. I keep going over that moment. Writing a letter to his wife was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Harder even than going over the side of our ship.
Britain has declared war on Germany, and Australia has vowed to be there. Jim, seeing a chance for adventure rushes to join up before the war ends without him. Soon he and his horse, Breaker, are sailing from Melbourne, off to do their bit. For four years Jim lives the terrible reality of life on the frontline. If he ever returns home, he will be a changed man.
Light Horse Boy is a beautiful record of one soldier’s war. Whilst fiction, it presents a story which could so well be the story of a real soldier’s experience. Using a blend of third person narrative and letters, chiefly between Jim and his sister Alice, back in Australia, Woofer takes readers on a journey through the the years of the first World War, focussing on the role of the Lighthorseman in Gallipoli and Egypt.
Light Horse Boy is a companion volume to Lighthouse Girl and features the same beautiful hard cover design and the brilliant illustrative work of Brian Simmonds. The two complement each other beautifully, though focussing on different aspects of the same war and featuring different characters (with the exception of Charlie, who is friends with Jim but also connects with the lighthouse girl, Fay).
A picture book for older readers, Light Horse Boy is suitable for upper primary and teens.
Light Horse Boy, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Fremantle Press, 2013
Available from good bookstores or online.
Elisabeth’s hand trembled as she lifted the jar of warm liquid. She wanted to run away and scream that it was all a mistake, but instead she took a deep breath and poured her urine all over the plastic pregnancy tester. A few drops spilt on the bathroom tiles. She shivered. it was so unfair. They’d only done it a few times and it hadn’t even been that good. Not like it was in books or movies. She looked at her watch and crossed her fingers as her brother rattled the door handle.
‘I’m busy!’ she yelled.
‘All right, keep your hair on.’ He walked away. Then, the blue lines appeared. Elisabeth stared at the tester and knew that now she had to make a choice.
Elisabeth is seventeen, pregnant and needs to make choices about what to do. In Choices, Dianne Wolfer takes Elisabeth in two directions. The narrative progresses with ‘Beth’ choosing one path, and ‘Libby’ another. Neither path is easy and both have consequences for relationships with her family, her boyfriend, her faith and with her friends. There are also consequences for her education and her post-school plans. The narrative alternates between Libby’s story and Beth’s story with headings indicating the passage of time ie Beth: 16 Weeks, followed by ‘Libby: 17 Weeks. The alternating chapters are in different fonts to help distinguish between the narrators.
Choices is a sophisticated read. Elisabeth’s challenge/problem is identified from her point of view in a prologue and thereafter the voice is of one of her ‘alter-egos’. Dealing with a teenage pregnancy is not a new story line, but most novels take one path, not both. Choicesuses an omniscient viewpoint to bring in the thoughts of other main characters, but for the most part both Beth’s and Libby’s stories are a little like diaries. The omniscient point of view allows Diane Wolfer to add layers to the story by giving a depth to other characters that would be difficult to do in diary format or third person intimate point of view. Elisabeth is a strong, resourceful character and this is a very tough right of passage for a teenager…via either of the narratives. Wolfer avoids judgement of Elisabeth’s decision by presenting the dual narratives with equal weighting. Recommended for mid- to upper-secondary readers.
Choices, Diane Wolfer
Fremantle Press 2009
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.
Mum looked down. The possum’s nose was peeking out from her bra. She laughed as the scratchy whiskers twitched back and forth. ‘Stop it,’ I hissed. ‘You’re embarrassing me!’
Harmony (she much prefers to be called Mon) used to think that her mum’s work with injured wildlife was cool, but now that she’s in year six she’s tired of being pecked and peed on by Mum’s orphans, and she’s tired of living in the bush. She wants her mum to be normal. Or does she?
The Kid Whose Mum Kept Possums in Her Bra is funny junior fiction, which explores some important issues, including family relationships and communication. As Harmony struggles to cope with her need to fit in with other children, she must also understand her mother’s motivations, and learn to compromise about the things that are important to each of them.
As well as being an insightful tale, the story also deals with animal rehabilitation issues, and includes back of book information about caring for injured animals and contact details for Emergency Wildlife Rescue organisations in each state.
The Kid Whose Mum Kept Possums in her Bra, by Dianne Wolfer
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2006
I’ve got a problem. For two years I’ve been a horse. Every morning I wake up, stretch my legs, roll onto my back and flick my mane. But that isn’t my problem.
When she wakes up on her eighth birthday, Alice discovers something terrible. She is no longer a horse. She can’t whinny or trot and she feels silly drinking out of a bucket. All her friends are horses, and if they discover Alice is no longer one of them, they may stop playing with her.
Alice tries everything to get her horsiness back, but when that fails she looks for other friends. She doesn’t want to be on of the Cool Girls or the Sporty Girls. She really misses her old friends. She might not want to be a horse, but she still likes the other members of the Pony Club.
Horse Mad is a cute, fun book. Author Dianne Wolfer gets across a message about friendship and belonging without being preachy or boring. Suitable for readers aged six to ten, horse mad or otherwise.
Horse Mad, by Dianne Wolfer