Review – Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars

Molly and PimSometimes, it takes a little while for things to change from what they were to something different. Imagine a new seedling nudging its head up through the earth for the first time, no longer a seed, not yet a tree. This miraculous transformation of being represents the way I felt reading Martine Murray’s new mid-grade fiction, Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars. It took a little while for me to see the light emerge within this tale but when it did, it shone. I mean, who doesn’t love climbing trees? Aren’t we all a little attracted to the enigmatic silent types? And who hasn’t wanted to give it to their overbearing neighbours once and a while? These are some of the conundrums that claim Molly’s consideration, too.

Molly is an ordinary girl living a strange existence. She shares her strange life with a border collie named, Maude, an indifferent feline known as, Claudine and her Mama, who’s penchant for potions and picking herbs makes Molly cringe. She wishes for a life more run-of-the mill like her best friend, Ellen’s. Ellen’s mum puts food in packets in Ellen’s lunchbox and never picks herbs barefooted before breakfast. Ellen lives in a normal suburban brick home that in no way resembles the gypsy caravan that is Molly’s abode, at least that’s how she perceives the house she lives in.

Molly and Pim Claude collie illoThen there’s, Pim, the slightly left of field boy at school, whose aloofness and indifference intrigues Molly to the point of distraction. Molly is a little frightened and yet, truth be told, oddly compelled by his abstract ways but is unable to decide if he is friend or foe.

There is no time to find out because Molly and her mama are preparing for battle against ‘the world’s nastiest neighbours’, the ghastly Grimshaws from next door. In an effort to restore harmony, Molly’s mama suggests they grow a tree, a magnificent towering oak tree that will block out the beastly Grimshaws with its beauty. How does one grow an oak tree overnight, though? With the help of mama’s magic potions of course. Shockingly mama’s potion has devastating outcomes. A tree appears but is it all that it appears?

Following the loss of her mama, Molly must not only fend and feed herself and her small menagerie, often with hilarious results, but she must also come to terms with her own jagged dance of life. Through the pain of separation, the vacuum of loneliness, and the desperation of time running out, Molly discovers the beauty in the way her stars align and lets unfurl an inner power she barely knew existed.

This story is a series of beautiful realisations and discoveries as Molly climbs ever higher through her tree of life. You feel her mama’s presence fiercely in every inch of this story, which is both heartbreaking and reassuring. As Molly’s resources and resolve are tested, she finds solace in what was always her normal. Bolstered by Pim’s alliance and Ellen’s unyielding friendship, Ellen learns how it feels being part of the millions of stars that make up the world, her world and what power can issue forth from such awareness. With realisation comes heart and from within heart, courage is forged; ‘imagine if you were never scared of falling, how much higher you might climb’.

Martine Murray Murray uses generous doses of whimsy and magic to tell Molly’s tale of self-discovery and acceptance. The results are spellbinding. Weird but very wonderful, Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars will sweep young readers away. The line-drawn illustrations and inclusion of Molly’s notebook on herbs are the end are fetching additions to a book that grows with you and allows you to reflect on its fantasticalness long after the last page is turned. Molly certainly lit up my world.

Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars can be found in Boomerang’s exciting Kids’ Reading Guide 2015-2016.

The Text Publishing Company June 2015

Fantasy for Young Readers

Molly and PimMartine Murray is the acclaimed Australian writer of The Slightly True Story of Cedar B Hartley, the Henrietta series and, for older readers, How to Make a Bird. Her new book is Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars (Text Publishing).

Molly’s life is set in the real world but her story has fantastical elements, particularly because her mother is an uncommon woman who has created a home without straight walls and corners; cooks chocolate-and-cashew balls and black-eyed pea autumn stews; uses an earthy magic to heal, nurture and grow; and accidentally becomes a tree. Molly hides the truth from her best friend, Ellen, but confides in Pim, a boy she thinks is tough but who also recognises wonder. “Pim was like a walk in the woods at dusk: full of darkness and brightness both at once, he was restless and unfitting, pouncing on ideas and lifting them out of the dark.”

The writing is sensory and lyrical, with awe-inspiring imagery, especially about stars. The singular characters share the book’s themes of truth and showing your true self with its primary-aged readers.

MuseumAlice Hoffman writes for adults as well as children, with The Museum of Extraordinary Things and Practical Magic (also a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock), but her latest children’s book, Nightbird (Simon & Schuster) has a similar tone and atmosphere to Molly and Pim.

12-year-old Twig’s mother has a mystical trait akin to that of Molly’s mother. They live in an old Massachusetts farmhouse with an apple orchard. Twig’s mother bakes apples, makes lavender honey butter and understands herbal remedies.Nightbird

Hoffman also uses star imagery. When Twig is not allowed to perform in a play she says, “ I just stored up my hurts, as if they were a tower made of fallen stars, invisible to most people, but brightly burning inside of me.”

Like Molly, Twig doesn’t feel she can reveal the truth about her family. The secret she hides is that her brother has wings but, unlike Molly’s nasty neighbours the Grimshaws, who want to cut down the fast-growing tree, the sisters who have moved into the cottage next-door to Twig’s become her confidantes.

Twig and her new friend Julia compare their favourite books and authors. These include Wuthering Heights and E. Nesbit. Twig sometimes feels like the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, panicked if she’s late or her family secret is discovered.Five Children

These exceptional fantasies could be read individually or together. Their mystical, surreal touches transform the everyday into the wondrous.