All Four Quarters of the Moon by Shirley Marr

What a truly wonderful novel this is!

Michael Thorn
3 min readJan 18, 2023
Usborne book cover

What a truly wonderful novel this is! I urge everyone, young and old, to read it. It tells the story of a Chinese family of five (two parents, two children and one grandmother) who leave their home in Singapore and begin a new life in Australia, not knowing a word of English. The affection Marr shows for her characters is understandable, as they are based on her own family, who moved to Australia in similar circumstances.

The book opens just before the move. The two sisters, Peijing and Biju, 11 and 6 respectively (in real life Marr and her sister were a little younger and the age gap between them was less) are playing with Little World. This is a cardboard box which they fill with drawings of various creatures and features of landscape. “It had started as a small act of defiance when Peijing would draw in the columns of her workbooks when she should be doing homework.” Ma Ma considers time taken creating pictures ill-spent. The sisters believe their world is a secret known only to themselves, but periodically an Extinction occurs. Beijing knows it was Ma Ma who was responsible for the Extinctions. On the big day of departure comes the worst Extinction. “There was nothing left in the box.”

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