the Shark Caller by Dianne Wolfer (Penguin)
I've met Dianne Wolfer several times at SCBWI conferences in Sydney. She's a very kind and thoughtful person, who is much loved by her fellow authors. This book is a break away from her other books, which have been three children's war books (Lighthouse Girl, Light Horse Boy, Photographs in the Mud), one picture book (Granny Grommet and me), and several junior fiction books. Dianne told us in a talk at The Children's Bookshop in Sydney that she wrote it after visiting Papua New Guinea and hearing about the island tradition of calling sharks. Dianne told us it took six years to write; the story started in one direction and ended up in another. I read it in one sitting on the plane home to New Zealand and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The main character, Isabel, and her mother return to their birthplace in Papua New Guinea to grieve, after the heartbreaking loss of Isabel's twin brother. Her relatives welcome her back into the fold, as if she had never left. However, she notices quickly that a lot has changed. Someone has sold the rights to log the forest on the small island, and it's having a devastating effect on the community.
Isabel's brother was supposed to learn the secret ways of calling sharks, but he died before given the chance. Instead, Isabel's cousin teaches her how to dive and her Uncle tells her stories about her ancestors. It's her destiny to undertake a long dive through underwater caves on her own. She puts aside her fears to carry out the traditional ritual to see if she can save her brother. What she finds is beyond whatever she could have imagined. Does she have the courage to complete the journey or will she succumb to the horrors within?
It's a coming of age story, with a fantasy element. Dianne weaves folk lore into the story and gives it a twist. A gripping tale with beautiful imagery
Highly recommended for young readers 10-14 years old.
RRP NZ$23, A$17.99