Author(s): Deborah Kelly
When I’m a famous marine scientist I’ll live on a boat by myself. I’ll snorkel on the reef all day long. But before I can learn to snorkel I have to be able to swim properly. And right now, I don’t even own a swimsuit. Twelve-year-old Tilly lives in a drought-stricken town with her mum and younger brother Oliver, who is autistic. Oliver’s meltdown sare making life unbearable. He can’t cope with even the smallest of changes to his routine.On top of that, he needs so many different kinds therapy that there’s never any time-or money-left over for swimming lessons. When Mum loses her job and decides to move the family to the Queensland coast, Tilly is both excited and terrified. Is this her chance to finally learn to swim? Will her dream of snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef come true? Or could so many changes all at once prove disastrous?
CBCA Shortlist 2020:Book of the Year: Younger Readers
CBCA Review:Tilly lives with her severely autistic brother Oliver and her work-weary mother. Her passion for marine science is signalled early on but her world is turned upside-down when the family moves from a dry rural town to live with an aunt on the tropical coast of Far North Queensland. The setting is vividly evoked through effective description. The change of circumstances creates new tensions for the already challenged family. Tilly is a plausible protagonist whose first-person narration does not slip from reflecting her age and emotion. Young readers will empathise when her mother is unable to take her to swimming lessons, undermining her goal of becoming a marine scientist, and when Oliver destroys her precious ‘aqua journal’. Tilly’s love for her brother never wavers, and the depiction of Oliver’s autistic behaviour is realistic. The story generates significant emotional response while keeping the writing age appropriate. The plot builds to a suspenseful climax when Oliver goes missing. The characteristics of autism are explored skilfully and sensitively, as are the themes of disability, parenting and family relationships.