Review Blog

Jul 25 2018

The art of taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

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Text Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9781925603743
(Age: Middle secondary) Highly recommended. Themes: Taxidermy, Verse novel, Eccentrics. I've been excited about reading "The Art of Taxidermy" since I heard of its upcoming release. Sharon Kernot's novel of lyric verse is an easy to consume, highly engaging piece dealing with love, loss, and grief. Highly recommended for fans of Steven Herrick's "The Simple Gift".
Charlotte is a curious little girl who is obsessed with preserving the dead, or rather, bringing that back to life. It all starts when she and Annie, her best friend, find a dead gecko and fall in love with it. Charlotte watches as it decays, but that is only the beginning. An obsession with birds follows: black birds, corellas, sparrows, galahs . . . She loves to examine the bodies and discover how they work. These little dead things are precious. But there is precious little she can do when Aunt Hilda destroys her collection, telling her that girls shouldn't play with dead things. Aunt Hilda's concern only grows as Charlotte becomes more and more experimental having discovered the art of taxidermy. While her father thinks her a scientist, Hilda is more prone to worrying that the obsession with death is unhealthy, particularly for a girl whose mother and siblings are dead.
The novel discusses grief as something omnipresent. Charlotte is accompanied by Annie in many of the poems and continues to be long after the reader realises that she must be dead. It is only when Charlotte talks about Annie that she finally disappears. The family is haunted by death having lost Charlotte's pregnant mother, sister, and grandfather. Constantly looked down upon by her classmates due to her family's German heritage, Charlotte remains very much an outsider as she learns to cope with grief sustained in her early childhood.
Kayla Gaskell

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