Outside, kids were running, shouting, playing and laughing. If I closed my eyes it sounded just like the playground of my old school back in London. But instead of cool and misty air, the sun shone down bright and hot. The air smelled different too. All sea-salty and spicy. And of course the biggest difference was that almost everyone was a stranger.
Pippa and her family might have moved to an idyllic island town, but that doesn’t make it easy. She has left behind friends she’s known since nursery school in London, and moved across the world to Australia, where everything seems different. On top of that, they are living in a caravan in her grandparents’ garden while Mum puts everything into renovating a run-down boatshed she wants to make into a cafe bookshop. Pippa isn’t sure it will work, but when she makes some new friends, things start looking up.
The Beach Shack Cafe is the first title in a new series following Pippa’s new life on Kira Island. Pippa faces the challenges of a new start with the help of her thoughtful, if slightly distracted, mum, and through trial and occasional error.
Young readers will love the island setting and will look forward to more installments.
Pippa’s Island 1: The Beach Shack Cafe, by Belinda Murrell
Random House Australia, 2017
Below, a limp windsock gave way to a clearing in the bush that looked too small for a landing pad. The blue nose of a vehicle peeked through the trees. The helicopter hovered, swayed its hips. They inched lower, the pilot peering through the side window. He manoeuvred the throttle as lightly as a computer mouse. They were even with the treetops, now they were below them. Steph read a painted sign: MAATSUYKER ISLAND. A soft thud, a bounce, the kiss of solid earth, an exhalation as the rotors lowered pitch. They were down, they were safe.
Steph is not thrilled to be coming to Maatsuyker Island. She’s sixteen and supposed to be in her last year of school. Instead her parents have brought her to this remote outpost off the coast of Tasmania to act as caretakers of the island and its lighthouse. They hope that their time there, largely cut off from the outside world, will help the family to heal from the tragic loss of Steph’s twin brother.
Angry and resentful at being on the island, Steph drifts, her studies losing importance and her plan to become a doctor seeming unlikely. Meeting Tom Forrest, a deckhand on a cray fishing boat which visits the island, provides a welcome distraction. 19 year old Tom has problems of his own. He doesn’t want to be deckhand all his life, but his manipulative brother isn’t keen to let him leave. In the meantime, he’s fishing illegally, making Tom party to his behaviour. As the teens grow close, they dream of a life back on the mainland. When Tom goes missing, Steph is devastated.
Wildlight is a haunting, beautiful coming of age tale about first love, set amongst the wilderness in a way that makes the setting almost a character. With most of the book set in 1999, the use of a prologue and concluding chapters set in 2015 shows the impact the teen year events have on the adult lives of the characters.
Mundy’s poetic style and well-developed characters take the reader on an emotion-filled journey.
Wildlight, by Robyn Mundy
Once there was a boy who had to leave home…and find another.
In his bag he carried a book, a bottle and a blanket.
In his teacup he carried some earth from where he used to play.
Teacup is the story of a displaced boy who travels in search of a new home. His teacup yields a surprise – a tree that grows as he lives upon the sea. Eventually he finds an island, where he sets up home and waits for company to arrive.
From the first page the stunning images of rolling clouds, roiling seas, massive whales and more draw the eye away from the text which, printed in white, almost disappears into the page – echoing the very understated nature of the narrative. The story is slightly whimsical – with the idea of a tree growing in a teacup, and the absence of any adults or explanation for the boy’s need to find a new home – which enriches rather than diminishing the parallels with the plight of refugees who take to the seas looking for better lives. There is plenty of room to discuss both what is happening in the story and these parallels.
The combination of Rebecca Young’s gentle text with Matt Ottley’s incredible artwork makes for a breathtaking whole.
Teacup, by Rebecca Young and Matt Ottley
Available from good bookstores or online.