The History of Mischief by Rebecca Higgie
Fremantle Press, 2020. ISBN: 9781925816266.
(Age: Young Adult/Adult). Highly recommended. Rebecca Higgie's young adult novel The History of Mischief is an excellent debut from a new Australian author. The History of Mischief is the worthy winner of the 2019 Fogarty Literary Award, a prize for unpublished manuscripts by young authors.
The novel is unique in both structure and content. The story focusses on nine year old Jessie who has recently lost her parents in a tragic accident that also left her scarred, both physically and emotionally. Jessie lives with her older sister Kay, who is struggling to cope with her new parental responsibilities. One day, Jessie finds a strange book hidden in a secret compartment in the floor: The History of Mischief. The stories in the book unfold chapter by chapter as Jessie and Kay read about the mischief makers of history. We see the world evolve through the eyes of Alexander the Great's slave in Ancient Greece, a servant of Ptolemy III in Ancient Egypt, Mulan's mother in Ancient China and a woman living in Paris during Napoleon's abdication, just to name a few. Interspersed are chapters from Jessie's viewpoint as she begins to commit her own acts of mischief.
The History of Mischief is a very unique and enjoyable novel for those interested in history and 'stories within stories'. It is also a novel of two sisters struggling to relate to each other and process their enormous grief, pain and guilt; a journey that is handled with empathy and skill by Higgie. The History of Mischief is highly recommended for both young adults and adults alike. Teacher's notes are available. Themes: Family, Sisters, Grief, History, Libraries.