Sea Glass by Rebecca Fraser and published by Wombat Books is a contemporary Australian story full of heart, with authentic, nuanced, relatable characters who navigate seeming irreconcilable differences and show that possibilities, treasure and joy can experienced with an open mind and heart.
Eleven-year-old Cailin lives with her Mum in Melbourne. They are moving to live with Cailin’s estranged Grandpa in the remote, regional town of Whitefoam Cove for four weeks of the Christmas school holidays. This is not a welcome move by Cailin who doesn’t know her Grandpa and would rather spend her school holidays enjoying their Christmas traditions at home and making holiday memoires with her best friend Josie.
Cailin’s first impressions upon arriving at Whitefoam Cove on Christmas eve, are not at all what she was expecting. Her Grandpa lives by the beach in a shack and he certainly looks nothing like she envisaged, in fact he looks decidedly un-grandfatherly. Rebecca Fraser draws readers into the story with her rich, vivid descriptions, for example, upon meeting her Grandpa, Cailin notices “the sun bounce off a gold hoop in his ear. A tattoo of a whale spouted on the back of one forearm, …” More surprises, so to speak, present when entering the tiny shack where Cailin learns that there is no wi-fi. How on earth is she going to survive four weeks not being able to communicate with her best friend. Just when Cailin thought things couldn’t get any worse, she realises her cricket bat was not packed in the car and is still sitting by the door at home. She had big plans to practice her batting over the Christmas holidays as she is determined to make the school cricket team. Everything is unravelling at a great pace of knots and Cailin believes she is now going to endure the worst holiday ever.
Cailin is quickly learning that her Grandpa shares no common interests with her and their worlds couldn’t be further apart. Staring at her Grandpa’s prehistoric looking TV on the first night cements in Cailin’s mind that her time at Whitefoam Cove is doomed as she is not going to be able to watch the Boxing Day Test Match.
A new day dawns, not just any day, but Christmas day and with this a new beginning, as presents are exchanged and a Christmas breakfast is enjoyed. Grandpa gifts Cailin a glass jar and explains she could use it to start a sea glass collection. This piques Cailin’s interest. She joins her Grandpa on the beach and learns all about sea glass. Her Grandpa explains that when a glass is thrown over a boat into the ocean, it is tumbled by the waves, sands and rocks in its journey to the shore. It eventually becomes a small piece of glass, completely opaque with smooth sides. This is a process that takes about twenty years and turns trash into treasure. He teaches Cailin about the different colours, the rare ones and how the origins of a piece of glass have such a rich history and story.
Looking for sea glass sees Cailin bond with her Grandpa. The more time they spend together the more opportunities for her Grandpa to impart knowledge and wisdom. He teaches Cailin a card game, Racing Demon, introduces her to stories such as Treasure Island, but most poignantly and importantly , he teaches her about her father that she doesn’t know as he was tragically killed in a car accident when she was two. Her Grandpa is her Dad’s father and he weaves memories of his son, Cailin’s father, into their days. It becomes apparent that this is why he was estranged as he has lived a very reclusive life since his son passed away.
Just as Cailin and her Grandpa’s bond is growing and strengthening, a frightening incident occurs that threatens their relationship and Cailin blames herself for the turn of unfortunate events.
This tender story explores the power of family, unbreakable family ties, the diverse ways loss and grief may impact individuals and how they cope in the aftermath of such loss. It also explores what at times can feel like a massive intergenerational chasm, yet one that can be bridged by sharing an interest, exploring nature and treasure hunting. This story is also a celebration of the many and beautiful ways a grandparent can influence family dynamics – they are caregivers, teachers, a link to the past, keepers of stories, sharers of knowledge and wisdom. This highly engaging, fast paced absorbing read is for readers seven to twelve years.