Meet Zadie Ma, a girl who writes magical stories that sometimes come true. Her dearest wish is to have a dog of her own, 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. 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 comes a heartwarming story set in 1950s Melbourne about courage, friendship, the magic of stories and one girl’s unwavering love for her dog.
This book is very different from any of my other novels because it’s part narrative, part graphic novel, part fable. It is also a very personal story that I’ve carried with me almost all my life, well before I knew I would be an author.
The following is an interview by Better Reading Kids
What inspired you to write Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon?
This novel is a special love letter to my very first dog, Rusty, who my grandfather found wandering around lost at the Victoria market in Melbourne. There’s a photo of my grandfather, Rusty and me in the front of the book, and the dedication reads ‘For Rusty and all the dogs who never found their way home.’
Rusty was a Golden Cocker Spaniel and had one blind eye. He was my best friend for nine years. But one day, while I went on holiday with friends, my parents took him with them to the beach where he wandered off. I never saw him again. I hope with all my heart that he found a new family to love him.
Which character do you relate to most, and why?
I relate to Zadie the most because she is very much like me when I was a child. My family used to live on top of a shop like Zadie and her family do, and while Zadie likes to write stories, I liked to draw. She’s also shy and a little afraid to stand up in front of her class. I remember those times only too well. But most of all, Zadie wants a dog of her own which was my greatest wish until I got Rusty.
Which scene in the story was the most fun to write (or draw)?
I always like writing the final chapter. By that time all the threads have been tied up neatly in the previous chapters and now it’s just a matter of leaving the reader with a sense of contentment and fulfillment, and perhaps even joy. I also really enjoyed illustrating the graphic novel sections.
What message do you hope readers will receive from Zadie Ma?
There are many themes in this novel: friendship, diversity, Chinese culture, racism, bullying, war, courage, hope and connectedness. But above all, it is about the power of story – how they can change you on the inside and impact the world around you. Only by reading can a reader be inside the head of someone else, someone who may be of a different culture or way of life to their own. In this way, a story can give one a feeling of empathy, as well as of belonging.
Scroll down to the bottom to view a video about Inspiration, Setting and Story telling techniques.
The Rose and the Well – a story written by Zadie Ma
The recording above is a little snippet taken from the audiobook of Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon which will be released at the same time as the print book on May 31. It is performed beautifully by Veronica Chan and brought to you by Penguin Random House Audio.
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Reads . . . like an instant classic and includes Gabi’s iconic illustrations and graphic novel elements! And it weaves together all of my favourite things: dogs, stories and friendship. . . I can’t recommend it highly enough!
LEESA LAMBERT, THE LITTLE BOOKROOM
(Age:8+). Highly Recommended. Themes: Friendship, Diversity, Chinese Culture, Racism, Dogs, Family, Courage, Storytelling, Neighbours, Hope, Kindness
Gabrielle Wang, Australian Children’s Laureate for 2022–23, has written a beautiful middle-grade novel about one young girl’s dream. Zadie Ma, a fourth-generation Chinese Australian girl growing up in post-war Melbourne, desperately wishes to have her own dog to love and cherish. Zadie also has a hidden talent for story writing and magically often what she writes has a way of becoming reality. Hence, she begins to write her story of ‘The Great Beyond’ where she creates her dog, Jupiter. She shares this with her younger much-loved brother Teddy, who truly believes that Zadie has a superpower to make things happen.
Zadie’s family situation is one of great stress. Her father has returned from World War Two a changed man and it is left to her mother to run the local Milk Bar and raise Zadie and Teddy. Zadie and her mother have a strained relationship which is central to the story. A young adventurous neighbour, who calls herself Sparrow, becomes Zadie’s new friend. Together their friendship grows, and quiet, reserved Zadie is brought out of her shell. Their friendship is tested by a bully and a hurtful racial misunderstanding, but the girls weather the storm. Zadie does find her own Jupiter, and after some difficult challenges he finally has a place with her family.
Zadie Ma! and the dog who chased the moon has a distinctive and appealing presentation. It engages young readers with the main story, interspersed with other short symbolic and connected stories, as well as the use of graphic novel features. A truly wonderful read that would be a welcome addition to a home, school or public library and would make an excellent class novel.
Kathryn Beilby READPLUS
One of my favourite junior fiction/middle grade reads for the year has to be Zadie Ma and the Dog Who Chased the Moon by Gabrielle Wang. It’s an absolute delight. The language is lyrical, the characters gorgeous and I loved the structure that offers stories within stories. This is a perfect addition to literature circles for Stage 2/Stage 3 readers. This deserves to be shortlisted for awards next year!
Paul’s June booktrail THE CHILDREN’S BOOKSHOP
I was blown away by this story – I couldn’t stop reading it. The characters and the way the story communicates such complex fragility in people’s behaviour drew me in.
Gabrielle’s skill in respecting this age-range readership, and unveiling ways how people can overcome some of their biases is very balanced and wise. There seems to be a philosophy behind the writer’s craft here that recognizes there’s emotional pain in life that makes adults hard to understand and contributes to the unfair treatment of people, but there are ways to soften these difficulties when young hearts and minds recognize their resourcefulness. The compositions within the main story read so well, and I’m so taken by the careful descriptions and the neighbourhood of characters. The momentum keeps me curious as a reader throughout each scene. I admire how homelessness, racism, PTSD, feminism, animal cruelty are themes that are tackled but there’s enough kindness and optimism that makes me feel uplifted about how these things can be overcome. Gabrielle’s illustrations are gorgeous and the graphic novel sections telling Jupiter’s story made my heart melt.
The plot is very accomplished; it shows a commitment to the writing and editing process – and this has added to this polished book. The interactions such as Teddy wanting to listen to Daddy’s brain – demonstrate such deep ties between people. It restores my faith in how people’s loyalty to each other carries us through life.
~ Melissa Faulkner
Chapter One starts with the words, ‘The day she turned eleven was the day Zadie Ma discovered her superpower.’ Zadie writes in her writing book, a story titled ‘Little Ant, Cassandra’ when her mother tries to kill some ants invading her kitchen. When she returns to the kitchen, her brother Teddy says the ants ‘wented away. Disvapowed.’ When Zadie writes another story called ‘Little Kit’ she realises some of her stories can come true. Magical!
One day Zadie starts to write about rescuing a poor, unwanted dog called Jupiter. Will this story bring to life her most important story of the dog of her dreams?
This, like all of Wang’s books for children, is easy to reading and compelling. At the front of it is a photo of her as a child of ten with her grandfather and her dog Rusty. Also at the front of the book are framed sketches of Zadie with her brother (1955) and father (1951), and another of her Mama and brother in the family shop (1954). The book has numerous sketches, including a comic strip of Jupiter the dog rescuing the Ma family from a fire.
As with other books she’s written, Wang’s stories are a blend of Chinese and Western culture with a touch of fantasy. This book is ideal for readers aged 9+ years.
Kathleen Grace BUZZ WORDS