The Shark Caller - Zillah Bethall
We were very lucky to have been given a set of these as a class read by Usborne and I've been running a book club in school with my y5 and 6 pupils.
This is such an atmospheric tale, set in the islands of and touching on WW2 history, modernisation and development, village politics and tradition, and clashes of culture. The main theme throughout the story, however, is that of dealing with grief and the loss of a parent/parents. It is this that drives the narrative for Blue Wing and Maple, two girls from vastly different backgrounds who are thrown together ( and not always willingly!) but whose relationship develops and blossoms as they discover that they share common feelings and desires, and work together to achieve their desired outcomes.
Get your tissues ready, people, as this is a tear-jerker! No spoilers, as the twist in the tale really got me here, but suffice to say, this is a story with messages and characters that grip you, drag you through the story with them, then will stay with you long afterwards.
The description of the sea and surroundings is beautiful, as is the way that Bethall describes the respect and care shown for the Sharks by Siringen, and also awareness shoen of the imapct of modernisation and progress vs tradition in the clashes between Siringen and Bluewing and the chief o their villgae who is moving on from traditional ways for the skae of his peole and the island/community's survival...an interesting side discussion to the main story.
There is a real nod towards environmental issues and awareness here, too, in the mentions of sharks, tourists, their hunting etc.
I loved the use of local dialect and pidgin English through the story, really adding to the character of Blue Wing and the authenticity of the tale.
Usborne's links to resources related to the book - photos, descriptions etc, are also fantastic additions - see them here:
Book of the week in the Sunday Times, their plaudits are below and I can't help but agree - an exceptional adventure through grief, friendship, sacrifice and self-discovery, told in an incredible setting and in a gripping and unexpected way - definitely a book that will be high on my list of recommendations for a long time.
Above all, this is an exploration of grief and it has such wisdom that there are paragraphs worth copying to save and reread. The Sunday Times, Children's Book of the Week
Thank you to Usborne and The Reading Agency for provodong copies of this for our school reading club (I used this with Year 5 and 6)
Find resources for the book here (from Usborne):
Hear Zillah Bethall talk about the book here:
Usborne: @Usborne and https://usborne.com/gb/the-shark-caller-9781474966849
The Reading Agency: readingagency.org.uk and @readingagency
Zillah Bethall: @ZillahBethall
Review by Rich Simpson (@richreadalot) February 2021