Catch a Falling Star

Shortlist year: 2020

Shortlist category: Children's literature

Published by: Walker Books


It's 1979 and high above Frankie Avery, one of the world's first space stations is tumbling Earthward. Rushing back with it are old memories. Things Frankie thought she'd forgotten. Things her mum won't talk about, and which her little brother Newt never knew. Only ... does he? Because as Skylab circles closer, Newt starts acting strangely. While the world watches the sky, Frankie keeps her eyes on Newt. Because if anyone's going to keep him safe, it's her. But maybe this is something bigger than splinters, spiders and sleepwalking. Maybe a space station isn't the only thing heading for calamity.

About the author

Catch a Falling Star

Meg McKinlay

Meg McKinlay is a children's writer and poet. She has published seventeen books for children, ranging from picture books through to young adult novels, and a collection of poetry for adults. Her work has won the Prime Minister's Literary Award, the Queensland Literary Award, the Davitt Award for Crime writing and the Aurealis Award for Speculative Fiction and been shortlisted for numerous other awards.

Judges’ comments

The last time twelve-year-old Frankie Avery saw her father was the night Skylab space station was launched. Six years later and Skylab is falling to earth, heading straight for Frankie's hometown in the south coast of Western Australia. As Skylab draws near, it unearths Frankie's grief and memories of her father, of their nights observing the infinite stars from their Space Shack, a shed with an opening in the roof. Skylab's descent also captures the attention and imagination of Frankie's scientifically gifted eight-year-old brother Newt, who is searching for answers of his own. While their mother works long hours as a nurse at a hospital, Frankie struggles under the weight of juggling school, looking after Newt and the silence surrounding her father's death.

Frankie's voice is wise and full of sharp observations. In her world a myriad of things fall from the sky, from birds, planes, shooting stars, to her father and her brother Newt. These insights into the various ways of 'falling' work beautifully to symbolise Frankie's lack of control over her life. She wisely states at one point ''I wonder what it would be like to be someone who thinks you actually have control over things. Who believes that if you want to, you can keep them from crashing to the ground''. Meg McKinlay's prose is poetic and lyrical, rich with imagery that captures Frankie's emotions while weaving an authentic landscape of Australia in the late 70s. Skylab's descent to earth serves as a catalyst for Frankie's healing and finding her way back to herself and her family.