Thursday 1 June 2017

Sister Heart

Sister Heart by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 978-1-92516-313-1

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Annie is taken away from everything and everyone she knows. Forcibly removed from her mother, stripped of her home, her culture, and even her name, Annie must make a new life for herself in a strange and cruel place without somehow losing hope that she will be reunited with her family one day.

This is a heart wrenching, poignant story about the stolen generation told from the perspective of a young girl removed from her family simply because she is of mixed race. It is told through verse, making the story so much more immediate, yet somehow lightening an emotionally heavy and hard subject. It is easy to connect to the young aboriginal girl as we are privy to only her intimate thoughts, her perspective and life through her eyes.

I want to go home

I want to smell warm rock
Run along a sandy creek
with my cousins
Watch flowers grow
after rain comes
Hug little sister

Understanding history is an important part of understanding our culture and ourselves. It helps us to be empathetic towards other people, accepting of different cultures and other lifestyles. The challenge is to engage children early and children are engaged by good stories. Sister Heart is a really good story, told well, with a fascinating main character and captivating plot.

Some middle grade readers may find it hard to get into because of its verse novel form which may be new to them, but persistence will reward them greatly. And the language is so evocative. One of the beauties of verse novel is that so much is said in so few words.
Everyone scatters
except the sun-bright girl

Sister Heart captures so much of what it is to be in the Australian landscape, the power of friendship, and the differences between the two cultures Annie has to contend with – her own and the one being forced on her.

I really loved this story. It is probably for the more mature middle grade reader, but the verse novel lends itself to less text which may appeal to others as well. I would encourage anyone with a love of history, Australian stories and beautiful poetic language to read this book.

Sister Heart was shortlisted in the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, the Victorian Minister’s Literary Awards, the Inky Awards, and was an Honour book in the CBCA Awards.

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