19th August 2016
The Shark Caller
Written by Dianne Wolfer
Released: 1st August 2016
Book title: The Shark Caller
Author: Dianne Wolfer
Published by: Random House Australia Children's
For Ages: 6 - 9 years old
Number Of Pages: 256
Tell us about yourself.
I live on the south coast of Western Australia with my husband, Pete and our dog, Harry, but grew up on the east coast in an outer suburb of Melbourne. When I was ten, my family moved to Bangkok for two years. Although it was a culture shock at first, I soon loved living in Thailand. When we returned I went to high school in Albury. My daughter, parents and extended family live in ACT, NSW, Qld, Perth and Germany. We all love travelling and visit each other often.
What is your book about?
The Shark Caller weaves fantasy with real life. Izzy and Ray are fourteen year old twins. Their mother comes from a shark calling family (New Ireland Province of PNG) and their father is from a Broome pearl farming family. In the opening scene, Izzy learns that Ray has died in a freak accident on the south-west coast. Izzy and her mother take Ray’s ashes back to PNG for traditional death ceremonies. After they arrive Izzy realises things have changed during the four years since their last visit. Environmental issues threaten the community’s way of life and sharks no longer answer the song of the shark callers. Izzy’s cousin explains that the clan needs someone to undertake a traditional diving ritual. The person must be a twin from the shark calling lineage and Izzy is the last twin.
Before Ray died, he found a strange cave on the south coast and thought he heard sea creatures calling. Since Ray’s death, Izzy has nightmares suggesting that her brother isn’t settled. His accident appears to be linked to the problems in her community and Izzy is desperate to help him.
The diving custom involves taking a sliver of obsidian through a cave sprinkled with air pockets and chambers to a hydrothermal vent in the ocean floor. The obsidian is given as an offering to a rough-hewn statue of shark god, Mano, a second piece of black glass is brought back to reinforce the community’s customary link to sharks. This dangerous journey is complicated by the clan’s belief that an embittered ancestor, one who mastered the ancient skill of shape-changing, remains in the deep waters.
The Shark Caller explores the intersection between traditional beliefs and the modern world and is receiving positive feedback from adult as well as YA readers.
Who is your target audience for this book?
I hope the story will appeal to both male and female readers across a wide age-range. The central character, Izzy is a brave girl from two cultures who is willing to risk everything to help her brother ‘settle’. Izzy’s seventeen year old Islander cousin, Noah is trained in shark-calling. With teenage characters, the story is marketed as YA, however I think readers as young as nine would also enjoy the adventure. Some underwater giant octopus scenes are scary, but there are no ‘teen themes’. Since The Shark Caller’s launch a week ago, I’ve received great feedback regarding adult readers also: Dad couldn't put it down so he accidentally stayed up 'til 1:30am reading it! - Lila
What was the most challenging aspect about this book?
Writing from a shark perspective was the most difficult. Brief scenes from a mako point-of-view are interspersed through Izzy’s story and I wrote dozens (hundreds?) of drafts to get the right blend of anthropomorphic otherness and believability. I’m completing a Creative Writing PhD in Anthropomorphism in Children’s Literature through the University of WA and am very interested in degrees of human-ness in animal characters. Crafting otherworldly scenes that are believable was also challenging.
What does your book offer the reader that differs from others covering similar subjects?
As the author it’s hard to know. For me The Shark Caller is new territory; unlike anything else I have written and I’m sure different readers will find different things in this story. The book is set in the real world with fantastical possibilities, but I would not call it a fantasy and the story has both cross-cultural and environmental themes. Australia is a cultural melting pot and feedback so far is that readers enjoy the diverse-cultural aspect of the novel.
How did the idea for this book come about?
The earliest idea sparks for The Shark Caller began around 10 years ago whilst diving with family on reefs in Papua New Guinea and The Solomon Islands. The underwater world fascinated me and interacting with marine creatures triggered my imagination. Those first story ideas mixed with my interest in other cultures and my love of the dramatic south-west coast, particularly places like Greens Pool which in my mind is the fictitious ‘Abalone Cove’. As I became more aware of increasing environmental threats to Pacific waters, some of these factors became additional threads in the story.
Dianne Wolfer is the author of 15 books for teenagers and young readers. Light Horse Boy was a Children’s Book Council of Australia Honour Book and won the 2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Award. Granny Grommet and Me, inspired by surfing grandmas, was also on the CBCA shortlist. Lighthouse Girl, winner of a West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award, explores the story of Fay Howe, the Albany lighthouse keeper’s daughter who signalled to soldiers in 1914.
Dianne wrote The Shark Caller as part of the PhD she is currently completing at University of Western Australia, but she has been dreaming about this story for ten years.
She lives on the south-west coast of WA with her husband, Pete, and her dog, Harry.
Dianne's Website: diannewolfer.com
The Shark Caller: penguin.com.au/books/the-shark-caller
The Shark Caller (Dianne's website): diannewolfer.com/books/young-adult-novels/the-shark-caller/