Catch A Falling Star – Meg McKinlay – Walker Books Australia – Published 1 March 2019
It’s 1979 and the sky is falling. Skylab, that is. Somewhere high above Frankie Avery, one of the world’s first space stations is tumbling to Earth. And rushing back with it are old memories. Things 12 year old Frankie thought she had forgotten. Things her mum won’t talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew. Only … did he? Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. And while the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her own eyes on Newt. Because if anyone’s going to keep him safe, it’s her. But maybe this is something bigger than splinters and spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn’t the only thing heading for calamity.
Catch A Falling Star is a beautiful middle-grade novel about family, grief and growing up. Authentic Australian setting, a compelling mix of historic events and astrology, and characters who are easy to love.
Now, don’t hurt me, but do I put this under historical fiction? It is set in Australia in 1979. While the author takes some liberties with timing and of course a fictional family and characters, the story is based around the true events of the falling of Skylab. An open timeline of when exactly it was going to fall left the world guessing about when and where it would come down. Media went crazy, people were worried about being hit and this is all brought into the story.
When NASA announces that their space station, Skylab, is falling, it brings back sad memories for Frankie of star gazing with her father and his plans to talk about Skylab with her brother, Newt. Plans he never got to fulfil after he died in a plane crash. Now, Frankie is 12. Her mother works a lot, so Frankie looks after and protects Newt and does most of the cooking and housework. But with everyone talking about Skylab, Frankie is scared she won’t be able to protect Newt from what his obsessions and studies on the topic will uncover or what it will mean for her family.
This would make a perfect class novel for Year 5 or 6 students, with themes around grief, family, protecting younger siblings and finding your way through growing up and navigating friendships. Frankie is our narrator. She is an ernest character, grieving her father, confused about her mother needing to work but the time that means she is away from her family and Frankie is left to care for herself and Newt. Frankie is also worried about school, not sure how she is going to complete her assignments about her future or her feelings about a book that hits close to home. There is also complications between Frankie and her best friend as she struggles to communicate her feelings. While she is protecting her brother, she is also faced with her own grief about her father.
A beautiful story about growing up and family, I loved every page of this delightful Aussie middle grade novel.
Category: Middle grade fiction
Themes: Grief, astronomy, stars, fathers, siblings, single, working mothers, friendships, family.
Reading age guide: Ages 10 and up.
Advisory: References to death.
Published: 1 March 2020 by Walker Books Australia
Format: Paperback, ebook. 256 pages.