Thursday 22 April 2021

Mel and Shell

Mel and Shell by Julia Lawrinson (Fremantle Press) PB RRP $16.99 ISBN 9781760990725

Reviewed by Kathleen Grace

It’s 1979. Swedish pop group ABBA rules the airwaves, roller skating is cool, and Mel and Shell are best friends. There is nothing they like more than making up dances to ABBA songs, and there’s nobody they like less than Scary Sharon and Stinky Simon. But things are changing, fast.

The story is told through a series of letters Shell writes to an imaginary pen pal, Mary, from 1892. In her letters she describes things from the present such as record players and television as well as the past (disgusting things such as dunny cans her mother tells her about). By using this style of presentation, dialogue is unfortunately missing from the book and the story which reveals itself through the letters, becomes rather stilted at times. However, Shell learns the importance of loyalty and honesty while showing activities such as BMX riding and roller skating.

This book is ideal for showing children a time when Australian history was told from a single perspective. Lawrinson uses the backdrop of Western Australia’s sesquicentenary celebrations to show how the commemoration of colonisation affects the relationship of the children.

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