“The bonds which connect people and nature are beginning to fray. Something precious is coming apart.”Melt Page 13
More by good luck than good judgement I found myself reading Melt in the days approaching Earth Day on 22nd April and was impressed at the way the important environmental theme is integrated skilfully into this exciting adventure. The prologue, from which the words above are taken, is one of the most atmospheric and compelling openings I have read in children’s fiction for a while and sets the scene for a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening story.
The story is told by two young people whose lives could not be more different. Yutu lives with his elderly grandmother in a remote village in the Arctic where they follow the traditional ways handed down from generation to generation. However things are changing for them. The weather patterns have altered and the ice is melting threatening their way of life, there are fewer animals to hunt and their home is vulnerable. Meanwhile Bea has moved house yet again and is struggling to adapt to her new city school where the other girls are unkind. Her father’s new job with an oil company is taking up more of his time and he appears distracted. One day these two lives collide in dramatic fashion and Yutu and Bea are caught up in a thrilling battle for survival and resolution.
Yutu and Bea may have dramatically different backgrounds but they support and help each other and soon pair up in a friendship forged in extreme circumstances as they struggle to survive in the Arctic tundra and find their way home. As they learn about each other’s lives Bea discovers more about the eroding ice, the traditions that are gradually being lost and the threats to their livelihoods. The environmental message never overwhelms but simply runs through the plot and ensures that the adventure itself has greater impact. It is an exciting read with some perilous moments that will keep young readers gripped. Both Yutu and Bea are likeable, with a warmth and vulnerability beneath their capable exteriors. I was particularly drawn to Yutu’s grandma, Miki; quiet but patient, reserved but wise she, I felt, was representative of those whose way of life is in danger of being permanently lost.
I enjoyed this book very much and thought the descriptions of the landscape were stunning; I could see the colours of the sky and the vastness of the frozen sea and feel the freezing temperatures and icy winds. With a mystery to solve, engaging characters to empathise with and themes of family, friendship and conservation this will appeal to many.
I should like to thank Poppy Stimpson and Pushkin Press for providing my proof copy. Melt will be published on 29th April and can be pre-ordered online.
If this book and its themes appeals you may be interested in this forthcoming event. Children’s Fiction and the Climate Crisis with Pushkin Press – Join Pushkin Children’s Books and Tales on Moon Lane for a fabulous evening with three brilliant writers in conversation. Pushkin Children’s Books Editor-at-Large Sarah Odedina will be interviewing Hannah Gold (The Last Bear), Piers Torday (The Wild Before)and Ele Fountain (Melt) on Wednesday 26th May on Zoom. I’ve booked a ticket for this and think it will be fascinating.