Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson (black dog books)
Lili Wilkinson reveals on her publisher’s website that her most treasured possession is her collection of 32 different editions of Alice in Wonderland. As such an avid collector of the fantastic it is not surprising that fantasy finds its way into her historical narrative, Scatterheart, and informs its title.
A novel for young adults, Scatterheart is the story of Hannah Cheshire, an indulged, motherless, only child who enjoys a privileged lifestyle in early 19th century London before her father’s fortunes fade spectacularly and she is left destitute and alone. Before long, she is wrongly accused of a petty crime and after languishing in a filthy prison cell, finds herself transported to Australia.
Each chapter of Hannah’s story begins with the tale of Scatterheart, a fairy tale version of her own search for happily ever after. In a novel that is an interesting mix of historical fiction, fantasy, adventure and melodrama, Wilkinson has created in Hannah a strong character undergoing a metamorphosis from the spoilt and self centred society miss to a resilient, resourceful and loyal young woman. Her descriptions of well researched settings are equally memorable, from the dank and dangerous prison cells to the harsh realities and privations of life aboard a prison ship and in the penal colony of New South Wales. The amalgam of styles and stories revealed in Scatterheart engages, informs and entertains and is indicative of Wilkinson’s versatility.
Such skill is worthy of encouragement in an emerging young writer. The judging panel congratulates Lili Wilkinson, recipient of the IBBY Australia Ena Noel encouragement award for literature for young people.
EN judges: Jane Connolly (Qld), Judy Moss (Tas), Robin Morrow (NSW).