Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock

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Dear Scarlett by Fleur Hitchcock, Published by Nosy Crow, 2013.

Paperback, 272 pages. (ISBN13: 9780857631503) This will be available in New Zealand for purchase from April.

From the publisher:

A funny, moving and absorbing story about a young girl’s attempts to learn more about her dead father through the objects she finds in a cardboard box he’s left her.

Scarlett and her friend, Ellie, go on a sometimes hilarious, sometimes scary, journey of discovery, following the clues and always remembering to ‘keep looking up’. Was Scarlett’s dad a thief? Was he a spy? And what does it mean to be his daughter?

Fleur Hitchcock is a great new voice in children’s literature, and Dear Scarlett is a great book.

What do I think of this book?

I loved this book – it’s a heartfelt story, and will have you on the verge of tears one minute and laughing out loud the next. This book couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me. I seem to have a large number of student readers desperate for books that they perceive as being in the vein of Jacqueline Wilson. This fits the bill nicely – it’s a fabulous realistic story about coming of age and finding who you are, friendship and modern family life.

There are a lot of books and movies that follow the journey of a wife or child as they discover their husband or father does not live up to the sterling reputation he enjoyed before his demise. This story follows the opposite path. Scarlett’s Dad has been dead for many years and she never really knew him, she just has a few precious but fleeting memories of him. Worse still, everyone “knows” her father was a rather notorious thief. Mum is in a relationship with a new man who just happens to be one of the policemen that had professional dealings with her Dad. The “Step-Dad” comes with children of his own and Scarlett has to get used to sharing not only her room, but her Mum too, with a potential step-sister -“Ellie”. On the day of her eleventh birthday a man turns up on her doorstep and gives her a box of her father’s belongings.  The box and it’s contents are a mystery to her, she has no idea why the box has suddenly turned up now and whether or not her Dad was trying to tell her something. Why has he left her his housebreaking tools, strange bits of paper and other items that make no sense? Scarlett has to solve the mystery, figure out the message from her Dad and stop other people getting hold of the box.  While she does this she comes to realize her Dad was not the man she and the local community thought they knew – he was better. A long the way Scarlett not only learns about who she is, but works out how to get along with Ellie, trust her Mum’s boyfriend and also how she fits into a new blended family situation.

This will be a fantastic read for 9-10+ girls but there’s nothing to stop a few boys enjoying this story too! The story is beautifully paced, funny, sad, a little bit scary and not at all girly. Perfect realistic fiction to ladder girls from a steady diet of JW to other fiction!
Thank you Nosy Crow for publishing yet another hit!
Fleur’s earlier novel for a younger audience, ‘Shrunk’ published by Hot Key Books, is proving a real hit amongst my students, with one boy (normally a very reluctant reader) asking me longingly if there would be a series of it.

Video of Fleur Hitchcock reading from the book:

Read an excerpt of the first chapter HERE: (Courtesy of Nosy Crow Publishers)

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