A Glasshouse of Stars

Shirley Marr

A Glasshouse of Stars
Penguin Books Australia
4 May 2021

A Glasshouse of Stars

Shirley Marr

Shortlisted for the Readings Children’s Prize 2022

Winner Children’s Book Council of Australia Younger Readers Prize 2022 

Meixing Lim and her family have arrived at the New House in the New Land, inherited from First Uncle who died tragically and unexpectedly while picking oranges in the backyard.

Everything is vast and unknown to Meixing and not in a good way, including the house she has dubbed Big Scary. She is embarrassed by the second-hand shoes given to her by the kind neighbours, has trouble understanding the language at school, and with fitting in and making new friends. Her solace is a glasshouse in the garden that inexplicably holds the sun and the moon and all the secrets of her memory and imagination.

Her fragile universe is rocked when tragedy strikes and Ma Ma refuses to face the world outside. Meixing finds herself trapped within the shrinking walls of Big Scary. Her parents said this would be a better life for them all, but it feels like the worst and most heart-breaking experience of Meixing’s entire existence. Surviving will take all the resilience and inner belief of this brave girl to turn their world around.


Meixing and her family have arrived in a new country to pursue a life with more opportunities and yet, their overwhelming feeling is they don’t belong, particularly as they don’t speak the language. It feels like they have lost more than they have gained in this new land. Meixing finds school terrifying and new friendships elusive; she wants to fit in but all she does is stand out.

An old glasshouse at the back of their new home becomes a refuge, a place where her imagination can flourish. Here Meixing is able to enter a world where the past, present and future mix, and where seeds of hope spring and ghosts can eventually be laid to rest. This is a hopeful novel and even when Meixing seems overwhelmed by her circumstances, I always felt she would quietly and steadfastly rise above the difficulties.

A Glasshouse of Stars illuminates the hardships of immigrants, the loss of a way of life, and the importance of family and friendships. Meixing faces all these challenges but then begins to build a new world for herself with persistence and the help of a few good people. Shirley Marr is a first-generation Chinese– Australian writer who wants people to understand the immigrant experience and this fine story beautifully conveys some of what newcomers to this country can encounter. I loved this book and will look forward to recommending it to ages 9–12.

Alexa Dretzke is the assistant manager and children’s book buyer at Readings Hawthorn.

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