Received from the Publisher
From the BLURB:
Molly has a strange life. Her mama collects herbs at dawn and makes potions, her father and brothers have gone away, and her house feels like a gypsy caravan.
Molly doesn’t want to know anything about herbs and potions. She wishes she could be more like her best friend, Ellen, who has a normal family and a normal house. But she is also secretly interested in Pim, who is inquisitive and odd and a little bit frightening.
When Molly’s mama makes a potion that has a wild and shocking effect, Molly and Pim look for a way to make things right, and Molly discovers the magic and value of her own unusual life.
‘Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars’ is the new middle-grade/juvenile fiction novel from Australian author Martine Murray.
Something really interesting happened this year, with Hardie Grant Egmont’s Ampersand Project (which seeks out new voices in youth literature) – they opened the prize up to more than just Young Adult manuscripts, but also middle-grade (books for 8 to 12-year-olds).
I think that’s really interesting because for a while there, Australia had high-quality children’s picture books, great junior fiction (for 5+, think Sally Rippin and Anh Do!) and of course our young adult scene is out of this world (14-18, roughly) but in the past we had less Australian middle-grade on offer, and had to rely on US and UK authors to fill the gap (I’m thinking of ‘Wonder’ by RJ Palacio, everything by Rebecca Stead and Hilary McKay).
But in the last five years or so, I’ve seen the tides turning – Ampersand’s inclusion of middle-grade manuscripts is yet another example of the Oz Publishing scene recognising the need for more Australian voices writing to this age group. Equally amazing has been the establishment of The Readings Children’s Book Prize, awarding stellar emerging authors who have been writing for this readership.
So – with all that in mind allow me to celebrate this gorgeous and wondrous book from Martine Murray, which is a real gift for the middle-grade readership.
This novel is filled with magical realism and whimsy, while still having its feet just firmly enough on the ground. It’s a story about friendship – and about the curious incident that sees Molly’s mother turning herself (accidentally!) into a tree, and the repercussions that follows …
Friendship is a big part of the novel – Molly is friends with Ellen and Pim Wilder, the latter of whom is a boy “always worth watching” who offers up the strangest sorts of facts about the natural world and outer-space;
Molly was secretly fascinated by Pim Wilder. He didn’t move with the pack. He wasn’t drawn by the cool talk and the latest fads. And this made him interesting, and a little intimidating too. Ellen was afraid of him. But Ellen was easily afraid. She would never walk in the woods on her own or rescue a spider from the bath. If Molly told Ellen about her mama’s herbs and potions, Ellen might even find this too strange and scary.
I loved the fact that Molly is grounded with these very real problems in her life, having to be very careful about the sides of herself she shows to the rest of the world, and being drawn to a new friend who sparks her sense of wonder and adventure … and at the same time, HER MOTHER IS A TREE! I think young readers will be at once tickled with the whole concept, and very connected to the complex character of Molly, her friendship woes and identity crisis.
There are sweet little illustrations throughout the book, drawn by Martine Murray who also did the cover illustration. They are like little treasures between the pages, and a real delight in a book that’s already choc-full of them in story!
Here is a middle-grade novel that sees beauty and magic in the environment around us, and celebrates seeds of friendship which grow deep roots. I loved this charming and whimsical novel, and young readers will too!