Monday 23 May 2016

Sister Heart by Sally Morgan

Nominated for this year's CBCA Younger Readers shortlist, Sister Heart is a verse novel that highlights the plight of the Stolen Generation.

Sally Morgan's autobiography, My Place was one of the publishing super stories of the late 1980's. Her story was fascinating but has since been surrounded by various controversies and academic debates.

Morgan has also gone on to publish an untold number of children's books and picture books featuring Aboriginal culture and stories.

Some are these books have been beautifully illustrated but the stories fall flat somehow. Sometimes the stories are fine, but the illustrations fail to inspire.

Every now and again, one of these books gets both the story and its execution just right.

Sister Heart is one of those.

Beautifully packaged in a lovely hardcover book, each verse chapter is discreetly headed by a simple line drawing of Australian flora.

The verse novel format will put some readers off which is a shame, because I find them such a wonderful way to tell a story that has a lot of emotional impact.

Following young Annie from capture in far northern West Australia to her boat trip to Perth then to her time at the missionary run school, emotional impact is never far from the reader's experience.

The story is told entirely from Annie's perspective, so the reader, like Annie cannot fathom why this is happening to her. All she wants is to be with her family living her familiar life. And that's all we want for her too. Except of course we know exactly how this forced assimilation process turned out. There were no happy home comings. There were no happy endings.

And Morgan stays true to this reality without leaving the reader (and Annie) without some hope.

Suitable for mature 10+ readers.

My CBCA shortlist post is here.

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