A Glasshouse of Stars (Shirley Marr, Puffin)
Meixing and her family have recently arrived in the New Land with hopes of a better life. Everything is different for Meixing, including the large house that is now the family home. At school she finds it difficult to understand the language, is embarrassed by her hand-me-down clothes and struggles to navigate playground politics. A glasshouse in her backyard that seems to hold a world of wonder and magic is her only escape. After the tragic death of her father, it is Meixing who must gather all her courage in order to navigate this New Land on behalf of her pregnant mother and take the first steps to finding her voice. This is a beautiful and melancholy novel that uses magical realism to explore experiences of racism, belonging, bereavement and mental illness. The unusual second-person perspective may feel unfamiliar at first but allows the younger reader to experience what is ultimately a very sad story from a place of emotional safety. This perspective provides a distancing effect: rather than feeling as though they are in the midst of events, the reader is able to somewhat disassociate from the trauma Meixing experiences. A Glasshouse of Stars feels deeply personal but offers readers hope within the magical walls of the glasshouse, where Meixing finds solace. This novel is highly recommended for thoughtful readers in middle to upper primary.
Erin Wamala has previously worked in publishing and is currently both a practising teacher librarian and the owner of The Kids’ Bookshop. She has just completed her tenure as a CBCA Older Readers judge. Read her interview with Shirley Marr about A Glasshouse of Stars here.