Catch a falling star by Meg McKinlay
Walker Books, 2019. ISBN: 9781925381207.
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Family, Skylab, Death, Grief, Loss, Friendship, Astronomy. Twelve-year-old Frankie Avery is trying to navigate life in 1979 in a small town in Western Australia, when she hears reports of Skylab falling. In between dealing with school reports, friendship issues and her mother working long hours, Frankie must look after her brother, Newt. Newt is too young to remember much about his father but loves to make and create scientific projects. For his birthday Frankie gives him the materials and instructions to make an antenna and this sets him on a path that forms a main part of the story. Frankie's mum is working hard at the hospital and seems to be there more than she is home, often forgetting to be home on time or to do promised activities, leaving Frankie to pick up the pieces and ensure that she and Newt are fed and get to school on time.
As the story progresses, Frankie and Newt become more engaged in the Skylab reports and are affected in different ways with different consequences. Frankie must negotiate her pain at the loss of her father, the responsibilities that her mother is placing on her and her relationship struggles with her best friend and her mum. As Newt becomes more and more obsessed with Skylab, Frankie must ensure that he is kept safe.
Meg McKinlay has written this book perfectly for younger readers, as she explores the importance of having something to hope for while negotiating the isolation that grief brings to individual members of a family. Frankie's relationships with her mum, brother and best friend, Kat, are very real and honest and truly reflect the place between being a child and an adolescent. Teacher notes are available.