Title: Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon
Author: Gabrielle Wang
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Puffin
Published: 31st May 2022
Synopsis: Meet Zadie Ma, a girl who writes magical stories that sometimes come true. Can Zadie bring to life her most important story of all . . . the one where she finds Jupiter, the dog of her dreams?
From one of Australia’s most esteemed and award-winning children’s authors and Australian Children’s Laureate for 2022–23 comes a heart-warming story set in post-war Melbourne about courage, friendship, the magic of stories and one girl’s unwavering love for her dog.
Zadie Ma has a special talent for telling stories . . . and it seems that some of Zadie’s stories come true. Zadie’s dearest wish is to have a dog of her own and so she starts to write the story of a poor unwanted dog called Jupiter, who’s just waiting to be rescued by a loving girl like Zadie.
One morning when she’s supposed to be minding the family shop for her mother, Zadie sets off to look for Jupiter. The scene that unfolds isn’t quite the same as in her story but she does find a real dog, and his name is Jupiter. Once Zadie has rescued him, she realises she can’t just take Jupiter home because her mother won’t let her keep a dog. Luckily her bold new friend Sparrow lets Zadie keep Jupiter at her house till Zadie can work things out.
But a series of unlucky events means that Zadie can’t write the happy ending she dreams of for her story, and now she may lose her beloved Jupiter forever.
Can Zadie’s most important story of all finally come true?
Gabrielle Wang is the Australian Children’s Laureate for 2022–23.
Living in 1955, ten years after the war with her family, Zadie Ma longs for a friend and a dog, but her mother is strict and at school, she’s left alone by most of the kids, so she entertains herself and her younger brother, Teddy, with magical stories that sometimes come true. When Zadie meets new student, Sparrow, her world begins to open up and a new magic begins. One of Zadie’s stories is about an unwanted dog called Jupiter – and one day, Jupiter appears – Zadie’s story is truly magical! Yet her mother refuses to allow Zadie to have a dog at home, so Sparrow agrees to help out – but a series of tragic and unlucky events could spell the end of Zadie’s happy ending for her and Jupiter – so can she find the magic she needs to make everything all right?
Zadie’s story is told in three ways: a comic for Jupiter, Zadie’s day-to-day life, and the interspersed stories written by Zadie that reflect what is going on in her life as she negotiates being Chinese and growing up in the Western world in the years after World War Two, where she and her family face racism and discrimination, yet there is always hope from people like Sparrow, who accept Zadie for who she is and encourage her, showing her what friendship can be like – and when tragedy strikes the Ma family, everything is put aside and the community comes together in a beautiful way, proving that people can change, and that community, and helping each other are more important than harmful ideas and attitudes, and talking can go a long way to healing and helping everyone understand and come together.
I really enjoyed this book, and its themes of magical realism, storytelling, friendship, family, and the intersection of tradition, duty, and modernity as it worked to tell a post-war, migrant, and uniquely Australian story – an Australian experience that shows the diversity and breadth of living in Australia throughout history, as it allows for a voice that we may not always hear have a chance to speak. In doing so, the 2022-2023 Children’s Laureate has given us a world we can experience and fall into, gaining an understanding of the time period Zadie grew up in and how stereotypes affected her and how acceptance from people like Sparrow. I loved Sparrow – I loved that she refused to believe in stereotypes and assumptions about people, that even though everyone gravitated towards her, she still chose Zadie over being the most popular girl in school. And I loved the loyalty she had to Zadie, and the loyalty Zadie showed to her – they were true friends.
The magic in this book comes from the stories-within-the story that Zadie and Jupiter tell, and is a special love letter to dogs, loyalty, and friendship and the power of words – both good and bad – and how they affect us and what they mean to us. How words make us and break us. It is the magic of language that shapes us and shapes our world and allow us to communicate and share what is in our hearts. And I also found that it spoke to the importance of understanding each other – especially Zadie and her mum, who needed to share a secret to find out what drove them and their desires as they came to understand each other in better ways throughout the novel.
The mystical yet very real feeling of the novel gave it a sense of whimsy and wonder as well as a sense of intrigue. It allowed for the characters to speak for themselves, and to be who they were – it was a truly magical experience because I was so drawn into the story, that there were times I was absolutely absorbed in what was going on, it felt as though I was right there with Zadie, Sparrow, and Jupiter. It is exquisitely well done and captures so many emotions and feelings that I think and hope it will appeal widely and connect to many readers, because like any good book, it gets the balance of specific and universal experiences right and allows us to see inside a world we may not know about or be able to access, and I loved that Gabrielle used her own experiences, giving the novel something special to hang onto and bring to life.
A beautiful book to read for middle grade fans.