It’s 1979. Swedish pop group ABBA rules the airwaves, rollerskating is cool, and Mel and Shell are best friends. There’s nothing they like more than making up dances to ABBA songs, and there’s nothing they like less than Scary Sharon and Stinky Simon. But things are changing, fast. Confiding in her pen pal from 1829, Shell discovers she has a lot to learn about loyalty, honesty and rollerskating.
Review from the Children’s Book Council WA’s Jan Nicholls:
Mel and Shell is a new book by Julia Lawrinson to be released by Fremantle Press on 1 September. Aimed at middle readers, and a must for ABBA fans, it encourages us to examine the past with fresh eyes.When you’re ten in WA in 1979 it can be tricky navigating friendships, coping with changing family dynamics and learning to roller skate but Shell finds unexpected comfort in her school history project. Charged with writing to a pen pal from 1829 to commemorate 150 years since settlers came from England, Shell embarks on a one-sided correspondence with Mary Ann Swift who sailed from Plymouth on the HMS Sulphur. Interspersed with letters describing the trials and tribulations of her daily life, her best friend Mel and their mutual love of ABBA and her long-held desire to ride a horse, Shell also enlightens Mary on some of the technological advances since her own childhood in a ‘Things that would surprise you’ section. Items such as telephones, washing machines, toys and electronic games are described in vivid detail that, as well as a hearty dose of nostalgia, also provides a fascinating history lesson for the reader. The interactions between the somewhat melodramatic Shell, her articulate and more mature best friend Mel and their nemesis Scary Sharon provide humour and pathos in equal proportions in this adventurous stroll down memory lane. Perfect to share as a read aloud this book deftly explores themes of loyalty and honesty and would make the ideal catalyst for family discussions about what it was like in ‘the olden days’ and what has changed since mum and dad were young.
Review from Magpies by Alison Paterson
Award-winning author Julia Lawrinson has penned a tale of serious middle-grade issues in a light-hearted approach that ensures and engaging and enjoyable reading experience for the audience … with historical themes relevant to the Australian Curriculum. Humorous interactions between the often-melodramatic Shell and her more mature best friend Mel ensure that Mell and Shell will be a fabulous book to read aloud.