2017 CBCA Notable Book and shortlisted for WAYRBA
Film rights optioned by NZ’s Brown Sugar Apple Grunt Productions
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The Shark Caller weaves fantasy with real life.
Izzy and Ray are fourteen year old twins. Their mother is from a shark calling family (New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea) and their father comes from a Broome pearl diving family. In the opening scene, Izzy learns that Ray has died in a freak accident on the south coast. Izzy and her mother take Ray’s ashes back to PNG for traditional death ceremonies. After they arrive Izzy realises things have changed 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 an ancient diving ritual. The person must be a twin from the shark calling lineage. Izzy is the last twin…
The idea for The Shark Caller was sparked by family holidays (over 10 years ago) diving on reefs in Papua New Guinea and The Solomon Islands. I was fascinated by the beauty of the underwater world and enjoyed watching marine creatures as I snorkelled and dived on colourful reefs. I also became interested in the culture of Pacific Island communities and traditions relating to sharks.
The writing of The Shark Caller began around 2005, but the manuscript went into the ‘revise one day’ drawer. Then in 2012, I was fortunate to receive Creative Writing PhD scholarship funding from the University of Western Australia to research and write a Creative Work of 70,000 words and a research exegesis on a linked topic (Anthropomorphism in Australian Children’s Literature). I wanted to write for YA readers, so negotiated writing 2 titles for the PhD Creative Work. One of which has become The Shark Caller.
The Shark Caller is very different to my previous books (except Dolphin Song, my first YA novel). Although it was challenging, I had fun writing passages from a mako point-of-view. I also enjoyed exploring meeting points between traditional beliefs and the modern world. As well as cross-cultural themes, the novel has an environmental thread. I hope male and female readers across a wide range of ages will enjoy The Shark Caller.
Teaching Notes and Blog Tour Q&A
- The Shark Caller dovetails with Sustainability themes as well as studies into Asia and the Pacific – in particular Year 8 History Depth Study units
- Download teaching notes
- Just So Stories
- Allison Tait
- Creative Kids Tales
- Kid’s Books Review
The Shark Caller published by Penguin Random House. Video by UWA shark researcher, Lucille Chapuis.
Links to articles about shark calling
Links to some of the weird creatures in the story
What do you think, are they creepy or beautiful?
- Vampire Squid 1 (appears at 3min50)
- Vampire Squid 2
- Blue ringed octopus
- Deep-sea Anglerfish
- Pygmy seahorse
I love reading YA fiction and so am thrilled to be receiving terrific feedback from adults as well as teenage and also younger readers:
Dad, Mum and I have just finished your book Shark Caller and we all loved it. Mum and Dad loved it so much they had to read it after I went to bed, and Dad couldn’t put it down so he accidentally stayed up ’til 1:30am reading it! My favourite part was reaching Sephone after escaping Pyrena and onwards. For me the most tense part was in the Cavern with Pyrena and escaping her. I also loved the words especially solwara, puripuri and tumbuna.
– Lila, Albany
Thank you for a fabulous new book! Jack and I are reading it together. He’s really into it and even made it the book of choice for his homework the other night! As for me… I’m blown away with it so far…
– Clare and Jack
This is the best book for the 10-12 ish age group that I have read this year. Highly commended for adults too. And it’s a pleasure to savour the language.
– Hazel Edwards OAM, Goodreads
The Shark Caller breaks new ground in junior YA fiction.
– Joy Lawn, Books +Publishing
… this marvellous book has opened my eyes to a completely new culture and spirituality. The writing is evocative and transformative – for the duration I was in the Islander culture.
– Sue Warren, Just So Stories
The Shark Caller is imaginative and fantastical and full of drama. Phrases of Tok Pisin (a creole language of PNG) are scattered throughout, giving the reader a sense of immersion in the culture and traditions of the island. A glossary is included to help with interpretation. Recommended for middle-school students.
– Jane Smith, Magpies
The narrative is frequently broken by the voice of a mako shark, using a different font and page layout, and which is almost poetic in form. It gives the shark voice perspective as the human and shark worlds gradually draw closer … Perspectives of environmental degradation, climate change and ancient traditions collide in the story and provide many opportunities for deep discussion about conquering fears and the dilemma of valuing heritage whilst moving with a changing world … Author Dianne Wolfer is an experienced diver and captures the magnificence and potential dangers of the underwater world in beautiful writing. The story is complex and thrilling. This is a great book for a small group book club or for a class serial story.
– Robyn English, School Principal and reviewer