'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 3 September 2021

Review: Mel and Shell

It is 1979. Shell is ten years old and in Grade 5. To commemorate 150 years since the first settlers came from England, she has been allocated an imaginary pen-pal, Mary, from 1829, as a history project. She has a sheet with an overview of Mary’s life as a starter.

The intention is for Shell to research the history of that era and learn about how life was lived in those early years, in comparison to current life.

Shell’s letters are diary entries, full of information about her own daily activities and experiences, emotions, dreams, friendships and family life. Through these letters, we are informed about Shell’s best friend, Mel, their mutual love of ABBA music, and their two nemeses, Scary Sharon and Stinky Simon. And the break-up of their friendship.

Many stories surface about the difficulties of those early settlement years, the lack of food, clothing and sanitation. Funny anecdotes connected to the dunnies which were emptied at night, and the occasional accidents that occurred will bring on a smile.

It is the friendships and loyalties that are tested that keep this story strong. Family situations and breakdowns, change the course of the children’s lives while secrets that can’t always be shared, are seen through the narrative of Shell’s diary.

Julia Lawrinson handles personal issues such as the reasons why people act the way they do, and say the things they say, like glass – fragile, inexplicable and irreparable, damage to be hidden from others, especially those closest to the person experiencing them.

Beautifully crafted, Mel and Shell, is full of stories, reasons why, and dreams dreamed not always being what one imagines when they become reality.

Witty and funny, with terrific characters, Lawrinson reveals the cracks in friendships, why they occur, and how they are mended.

Title: Mel and Shell
Author: Julia Lawrinson
Publisher: Freemantle Press, $ 16.99
Publication Date: 1 September 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781760990725
For ages: 10 – 14
Type: Middle Grade Fiction