Marcie Gill hasn’t had a great start to the Christmas holidays. Her parents aren’t talking to each other and the family business – the Snorkel Bay Caravan Park – is in financial trouble. Her younger brother will only talk about his twenty-three goldfish and her sister is obsessed with tennis. To make matters worse, her gran is in the hospital after a bad fall and won’t be home for ages.
But then something magical happens. Something that involves a Christmas competition, a black cat called George and a wishing stone. Marcie is about to discover that if you wish hard enough, dreams can come true.
Beloved, award-winning Australian author Monica McInerney has written a delightful and entertaining first book for children. With guiding illustrations throughout by award-winning illustrator Danny Snell, this is a heartwarming story for readers aged 9+ that will delight readers both young and old.
McInerney is known for her some of her most popular bestselling books for adults, including, most recently, The Godmothers. And while Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat is her first children’s book, it’s as if she’s always written for a younger audience. Growing up in a family of seven children and having eighteen nieces and nephews, McInerney says that they were the inspiration for this book and the many more Marcie Gill adventures to come.
Set in the fictional town of Snorkel Bay, SA, Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat is a hopeful story about family, discovery and belonging – with a dash of magic. Marcie is an intriguing character who embodies the essence of childhood on the cusp of adolescence. She still has the intrigue and wonder that piques children’s interests, but as the curtain of childhood naivety starts to open, Marcie starts to mature and recognise the hardships and struggles of adulthood.
Throughout the novel, there’s a strong focus on questioning. The story begins by emphasising how inquisitive Marcie is, questioning anything and everything around her. I particularly liked how there’s a focus on both the questions we voice and the questions we ponder. Through the latter, McInerney vividly shows us the reality of children in this age group: they observe, listen and notice everything – even when parents think they don’t – becoming more aware of the grown-up problems they were earlier sheltered from.
I thought the inclusion of magic in this novel was the perfect way to present the reality of maturing while still having childhood innocence. On the surface, the wishing stone is the key to unlocking something fantastic (no spoilers here) and with it, Marcie is able to form a special bond with George. But on a deeper level, the stone represents tradition, escapism and hope that everything you wish for could be yours. But I liked the message that not everything you wish for will come true; ultimately, everything happens for a reason and in your best interest – even if you don’t realise it at the time.
Marcie Gill and the Caravan Park Cat is set several weeks before Christmas, ending during the festive season. There are also subtle undertones about the importance of gifts, wishes and hopes perfect for the lead up to Christmas. It’s a delightful and entertaining read that would be a fantastic present for Christmas.