The Shark Caller

Authored by Zillah Bethell
Illustrated by Saara Katariina Söderlund
Published by Usborne

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A story of ancient magic, adversity and triumph.

The Shark Caller is superbly written by Zillah Bethell. She skillfully weaves her type of magic, which sees the reader make real connections to the main characters in the tale. You will feel their happiness, their frustrations, their loss; you may cry; you will certainly smile; this is a book not to be missed.

We are introduced to the main character of Blue Wing as she embarks on a boat trip with her ‘waspapi’ Siringen. Tasked to take a tourist to shark waters the story begins to unfold as we learn that her guardian is a magical shark caller and that Blue Wing longs to be one too to avenge her parents’ death. Other key characters are a professor and his daughter Mabel who have come from America. Mabel also has suffered the loss of her mother and is not happy at first for being taken away from the life she loved by her father. The relationship between the two children develops, and we share in their arguments, their awe and wonder and their navigation of life’s challenges.

The book is well written, and though there may be some hesitancy in recommending a book to children that deals with the loss of parents, there is no need to worry, the reader is in good hands. Zillah Bethell’s writing supports and carefully navigates you through the ups and downs which are interwoven with magic and history. The use of key Papua New Guinea phrases helps to situate yourself on Blue Wing’s island. It’s also fair to say the ending is quite something!

This text is most suited to upper KS2 and beyond. It deals with themes such as friendship, family, exploration, death and environmental awareness. This is a book that would be better recommended as a personal read if read below year 6. It offers much for the classroom in terms of supporting geography, science and SMSC/PSHE.