Skylab. Memories… Like McKinlay’s central character, Frankie, I was 11 when the anticipation of Skylab hurtling to Earth consumed the media and lunchtime conversations. One afternoon, I was surprised and confused to arrive home later than my older brother, and demanded to know why he was home so early. “Didn’t you hear? Part of Skylab fell on my school, and we were all sent home.” I heard about chunks of metal raining down, injured kids, TV news crews and the evacuation of his immense school. I couldn’t wait to get to school the next day to discuss the huge news in great detail with my friends. You can imagine my chagrin at being called variations of liar and prankster. Skylab was still in the sky, Sydney was never really in danger, and my brother had spun a tale almost as believable as Meg McKinlay’s.
There was so much I loved about this book. The time period was captured perfectly – right down to Storm Boy as the class text. There was a seamless layering of love, grief, change, science, magic, relationships, communication and hope, and I was once again my 11 year old self navigating friendships (is this a fight?), school work and evolving family dynamics without the benefit of decades spent on the planet. The characters rang true, and the use of imagery and symbolism was powerful, yet understated. This would be a perfect book for a class study, as there is so much to unpack. Some ideas are below: