Written by Meg McKinlay
Walker Books Australia, March 2019
It’s 1979 and the sky is falling.
Skylab, that is.
Somewhere high above Frankie Avery, one of the world’s first space stations is tumbling to Earth. And rushing back with it are old memories. Things twelve-year-old Frankie thought she’d forgotten. Things her mum won’t talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew.
Only … did he? Does he?
Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. And while the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her own eyes on Newt. Because if anyone’s going to keep him safe, it’s her. It always has been.
But maybe this is something bigger than splinters and spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn’t the only thing heading straight for calamity.
Set against the backdrop of an international media event, this coming-of-age story is about loss and grief, about dealing with change and fighting to hold on to what you can, while letting go of what you can’t. Deftly navigating the spaces between science and belief, between logic and magical thinking, it will appeal to fans of Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo and Plenty by Ananda Braxton-Smith.
What Readers Are Saying:
‘A witty and tender story mapping the marvels of science and the human heart.”
– Anna Fienberg, author of the Tashi series and many more
‘Catch a Falling Star is middle grade writing at its very finest … sure to end up on school curriculum lists and will be enjoyed in tween and teen bookclubs around the country.’
– Megan Daley, Children’s Books Daily
‘Meg McKinlay is a master storyteller and her words never fail to burrow deep into my heart and mind. This is a gentle story about everyday life, but it’s so addictive, so emotional, so gripping.’
– Shaye Wardrop, Kids’ Book Review
McKinlay’s gift for writing accessible characters for younger readers shines through … Catch a Falling Star is a finely crafted novel that will catch the attention of teachers as well as readers aged nine and up. Highly recommended.
– Tehani Croft, Books+Publishing
‘… perfectly pitched for readers on the cusp of adolescence … McKinlay, as always, brings an enormous amount of insight to a story without weighing it down and the result is a book that is tender, hopeful, and slightly surreal.’
– Bec Kavanagh, Readings Kids
- Winner, 2020 SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, Australia & New Zealand Region
- Winner, 2019 WA Premier’s Book Awards: Writing for Children
- Shortlisted, 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards: Children’s Literature
- Shortlisted, 2020 CBCA Book of the Year Awards: Younger Readers Category
- Shortlisted, 2020 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards: Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature
- Shortlisted, 2020 West Australian Young Readers Book Awards: Younger Readers
- Shortlisted, 2021 Book Links Award for Children’s Historical Fiction
A Note on Writing Historical Fiction
Video: The Story Behind the Story (4 min; filmed for CBCA shortlist 2020)
Video: Unconscious Influences: How My Own Childhood Snuck into the Book (4 min; filmed for CBCA shortlist 2020)
Behind the Story
As is often the case for me, this story developed from the intersection of two completely unrelated things:
Firstly, my own memories of Skylab’s protracted fall towards earth in 1979.
I was eleven years old, attending a tiny little school in country Victoria. Skylab, one of the world’s first space stations, was six years old and tumbling from the sky.
NASA couldn’t tell us when or where it was likely to come down. However, they were sure there was no need to worry. After all, the surface of the Earth is over 70% water; there was no chance anyone would be hit. Not much of a chance, anyway.
For many of us kids, it was the first time we really understood that sometimes things are beyond anyone’s control. In spite of our playground bravado, we kept one eye on the sky.
I wrote this book because I’ve never quite shaken my 11-year-old self, because that time when Skylab was falling was surreal and terrifying and fascinating, and so many things all at once.
Because it was an international media event that generated so many weird and wonderful stories they simply have to be shared.
Because Skylab had two orbit paths over Australia, and ended up raining debris over small towns in the south west of Western Australia. It’s both an Australian story and an international one.
It’s a story that belongs to a particular place and time, but which speaks out to much larger, universal themes.
I wrote it in this particular way for reasons I can’t easily explain. But I think a lot of it has to do with this …
I’ve loved Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts my whole life, and this particular strip is one I return to again and again. Somewhere in the far corners of my mind, something about this bumped up against my memories of Skylab. This is what gave me the heart of the story – the ideas I wanted to explore about the tricky spaces between science and belief, logic and magical thinking, acceptance and hope – and along with it, the character of Newt, who will always be a little bit Linus to me.