Book Reviews · Children's · Fiction

Review: The Shark Caller by Dianne Wolfer

The Shark Caller by Dianne Wolfer
Published August 1, 2016 by Random House Australia Children’s
RRP AUD $17.99
★★★★

Isabel is on a plane heading back to her island birthplace in Papua New Guinea. Izzy is looking forward to seeing her family again, but there’s another tragic reason for the trip. Izzy’s twin brother, Ray, died in a freak diving accident, and Izzy and her mum are taking his ashes home for traditional death ceremonies.

After they arrive, Izzy realises things have changed since their last visit. Logging threatens the community’s way of life and sharks no longer answer the song of the shark callers.

Izzy’s cousin Noah explains that the clan needs someone to undertake a traditional diving ritual. The person must be a twin from the shark calling lineage. The dive will be perilous. And Izzy is the last twin.

Will she have the courage to attempt the dive?

And what deep, dark secrets will the ocean reveal if she does?

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I actually really enjoyed this book! It had such lovely themes of family and cultural connection throughout, a refreshing break from all the romance and drama that’s usually in books today, I was captivated from start to end. Although it’s marketed as a YA novel, I think it is more suited for middle-grade readers. The protagonist is 14 years old, and although she has gone through some tough times, it still seemed to be quite a young read.

The world-building was wonderful, I was easily able to picture the various places Izzy was visiting. I loved how Dianne was able to weave little fantasy threads throughout the novel! It made the story that much more enjoyable. I was also so happy to have characters that kept open minds! It was so refreshing to see elders who are willing to change and bend their cultural traditions and not dismiss someone just because they didn’t fit the ideal description.

Our protagonist, Izzy, is brave and determined, and I love that. She doesn’t let past events define her and she is very family-oriented. The characters in the story were all very family-oriented and I loved the closeness and compassion of the family. It constantly re-enforced the themes in the best way. I really loved how Izzy was genuinely into the cultural beliefs, and didn’t just push the elders away and dismiss their beliefs. I think it’s important to have these sorts of books being written, especially nowadays when young people growing up may be less likely to embrace their cultural heritage in order to ‘fit in’.

The use of the native island language and terms really add to the experience and contribute to the overall feel of the book. The glossary in the back certainly helps too! Haha. From the language to the character personalities to the cultural aspects, it’s clear to see that the author has put a lot of effort into researching in order to properly portray the Islander culture.

In general, I found this book to be highly enjoyable, and definitely recommend it for all, especially readers aged 9-12 years old.

I received a review copy from the publisher

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dianne Wolfer is the author of 15 books for teenagers and young readers. Light Horse Boy was a Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book and won the 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Children’s Books. Granny Grommet and Me, inspired by surfing grandmas, was also on the CBCA shortlist. Lighthouse Girl, winner of a West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award, explores the story of Fay Howe, the Albany lighthouse keeper’s daughter who signalled to soldiers in 1914. It inspired the hugely popular Royal de Luxe performance of The Giants at Perth Festival (2015).

Dianne wrote her latest book, The Shark Caller, as part of the PhD she is currently completing at UWA, but she has been dreaming about this story for ten years.

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