By: Julia Lawrinson
Genre: YNH - History & the past: general interest
Published by: Fremantle Press
Published: 31 Aug 2021
ISBN: 9781760990725


Mel and Shell is the latest book for middle readers from award-winning author Julia Lawrinson.

Shell and Mel are best friends, united by their love of ABBA. But when Scary Sharon decides she wants to be friends with Shell, and Mel begins acting strangely, things start changing fast. Confiding in her pen pal from 1829, Shell discovers she has a lot to learn about loyalty, honesty and roller skating.

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Set in 1979, best friends Mel and Shell are no different to many their age, just spending time together and obsessing over ABBA!

When they are given the task of writing to a real person who lived 150 years ago, explaining what life is like now and questioning what life was like then, Shell is given Mary Ann Swift, who was aboard the boat the HMS Sulphur.

And so Shell starts telling Mary all about her daily life, including the friendship issues that are now arising with Mel, the bully Sharon, as well as her other friends, Jody and Lisa.

Being told through Shell’s eyes, we get an insight into life in 1979, as she tries to explain her life at the time to Mary. It is a history lesson not only of things that happened 150 years ago, but of life in the late 70’s, which will be an eye opener for many younger readers. For me, being a similar age to that of the girls in 1979, it brought back many memories!

Can Mel and Shell navigate all that comes with dealing with change, growing up and confronting bigger issues than just worrying about the next ABBA song?

But there is more to this story than just the girl’s friendship issues. There are also themes of bullying, family issues and racism.
Perfect for students in Year 5 to 8.

Reviewed by Sam