Review Blog

Mar 03 2017

The shark caller by Dianne Wolfer

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Random House, 2016. ISBN 9780143780557
(Age: 11+) Highly recommended, Sharks, Papua New Guinea, Mythology, Westernisation. Fourteen year old Izzie is on her way back to her island near Papua New Guinea with her twin brother's ashes to be scattered in the lagoon near their family business, the Sea Star Resort. She longs to see her home again, but is dismayed when she sees her old school closed, the resort looking a little worse for wear, the rainforest on a nearby island cut down. The scar left by logging has meant that tourists are less evident, the community now cannot afford a teacher and the kids must board each week at a nearby school, returning on the weekends. Later that evening she overhears the men talking about the sharks. The community's life is bound with the sharks. The men can call them and Izzie finds out that her brother was the last of the shark callers.
Her father from Broome is wrapped up with his new life and his family's pearl industry and Izzie has had little to do with him since her parents separated. Noah, her islander cousin tells her of the stories around the shark callers, letting her know that they are relying on her to do what her brother would have done, diving into a deep cave to bring back an artifact which will ensure the islanders will be able to catch more sharks, and secure the long term viability of the reef which surrounds their home. Izzie is torn. He parents had taken them away because of the myth of the shark caller, but now back, she is being besieged with the idea that she and only she can ensure the island's survival.
Noah trains her in the skills needed to get into the cave to fetch the piece of obsidian so needed for the community's survival, and so follows a breath taking account of Izzie's dive, where some things are solved but questions are left lingering.
It is wonderful to see a story set in one of our near neighbours, full of the sights and sounds of that nation, their beliefs and customs woven into the story, with a glossary at the end to acquaint readers with their language. The problems of this nation seem to replicate problems worldwide: logging of rainforest, reliance on tourist dollars, the drain of the younger people and stress on the fishing industry. A marvellous read for middle school people.
Fran Knight

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