It baffles me how Ele Fountain isn’t one of the more celebrated children’s authors. She has written the powerful Boy 87 and followed it up with the fantastic Lost. Her latest novel, Melt, follows on from these great books in that it focuses on what it means to be human in the most trying of times.
Bea knows the routine; new school, same old. She arrives at this point knowing that she won’t be here long. Her father is often headhunted for his job. Major oil companies will pay for his geological expertise. Get in, get out, try to deal with the stupid bullying, then move on again. Repeat. All she wants is a place to really call home.
Yutu lives in the Arctic tundra. His family always have and since losing his parents to a snowstorm, his grandmother has kept him close. Almost stifled. He longs to move on, to experience more away from his small village.
Their world’s collide one day as both make reckless choices that place the pair at the heart of a thrilling adventure. Bea fears for her life as mystery men pursue her after she becomes the sole witness to them attacking her father. Both humans and the freezing conditions aim to kill the pair.
What Ele Fountain does so well is root her stories in the real world, with characters and events often seen on news footage but never explored with such a keen eye and presented to children. She makes you care. As a writer, what greater skill can you have?
Now for the teacher bit. Climate change is a big one. Making children aware of the ways our planet is having to adjust and what this means for certain biomes is something all schools need to consider. This book makes these changes explicit and also highlights what we can lose if we carry on down this path. DISCLAIMER: I have to admit, I used the opening chapter as a ‘short’ story for a reading lesson due to how well it is written and the fact it is self-contained. Who knew great authors could make brilliant texts to teach reading comprehension from?
Another ‘human’ tale that intensely pulls at the heartstrings.