This story was a mix of whimsical beauty and the traumas immigrant children face.
It’s honestly heartbreaking and by the end, I just hurt for Meixing so much. She was so trying to do her best in a world that had only given her harshness. But the one thing to cherish and count on was…her new house, with its sentient whims, and the glasshouse in the hard full of magic seeds to grow, where you could curl up and find peace. The descriptions were bursting with vivid life and colour and those scenes were just so so gorgeous.
Also!! I just wanted to give a quick note that I am SO happy to be reading a new Shirley Marr book! My sister and I adored her YA novels (Preloved and Fury) way back in 2012!!! We always were like “We want another Shirley Marr book 🥺💛” and now she’s back! I need to find Little Jiang now too.
I think A Glasshouse of Stars is a stark and important eye-opener of childhood trauma and the way kids might cope. Meixing’s family immigrated from China and she can’t speak much English, she is instantly targeted at school, and a new family tragedy brings fresh horror to her life. She’s so uprooted and isolated; she barely talks and she’s so confused by Australian customs.
She also meets to other immigrant kids, Kevin Huynh (who lives next door and is Vietnamese) and Josh Khoury (didn’t say exact country, but Middle Eastern) and finally a super soft teacher scoops them all up into a class to teach them English and coach them. Kevin is so explosive and volatile, but that boy is so so traumatised. The way Meixing decides to never give up on being friends with him, no matter how many problematic behaviours he parrots. Like it just makes you want to cry that this ONE TEACHER sees these kids as they truly are: struggling. Not brats. Not problem kids. And is there for them when no one else is.
The Glasshouse adventures and the sentient house add in a little magical realism whimsy, but my heart still ached reading them, because they’re obviously Meixing trying to cope in a world she doesn’t understand. But magic makes kids resilient and I loved this.
It’s a quiet story of finding a way to put down roots in an unfamiliar place, of growing instead of letting the world cut you down. It’s of grief and trauma, but written expressively for kids, to give them realism and understanding but also hope. Beautiful and simple writing. Beautiful messages amongst a tough story. It’ll make your heart hurt before it washes you in a world of stars, flowers and colour.
Thank you to Penguin Australia for the review-copy! Out May, 2021.
Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard. Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.
Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.
A Glasshouse of Stars is based on the real childhood experiences of the author, brushed with a light touch of magic realism.