Review by Nick:
We were recently very fortunate to have Rebecca Higgie speak down at the Lane Bookshop as part of our Local Author Series. Her book is a fantastical, historical and contemporary journey through the eyes of its young narrator Jessie. Jessie takes us across a myriad of ages and countries including ancient Greece, Victorian England, France, Ethiopia and China; and for those living in Perth it also has a number of familiar places.
The History of Mischief can be read on a number of levels. To start with it is pure fun and a rollicking ride through the ages. However, it is also a meditation upon "mischief" and the use of mischief in dealing with trauma, challenging negative authority and gauging risk. Tim Winton once mentioned in one of his talks on his book Breath, that he was worried about the children of today being so wrapped in cotton wool and the potential harm that this may do to them in the long run. Gentle non-harmful mischief is a way out of this and elucidated in this novel which acknowledges its importance to the youth and young adults of today.
Jessie searches, and as Elliot says at "the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." As is mostly the case, it is not the destination that is important but the journey and the places that our explorations take us to. That exploring I found captivating and transported me through to philosophers in ancient Greece to diplomatic disputes in Victorian London and back to Perth. The book is a testament to the years of research that Rebecca has completed and brings historical characters to life that will delight both children and adults.
Rebecca is to be congratulated on her first book and it is no surprise that she won the Fogarty Literary Award for this.
In her award-winning debut novel for young adults, Rebecca Higgie takes us into the secret lives of history's mischief-makers - the philosophers and tyrants, the shapeshifters and dragons. Narrator Jessie is the girl who might just expose how they all connect.
When Jessie and her older sister Kay find a book called The History of Mischief, hidden beneath the floorboards in their grandmother's house, they uncover a secret world. The History chronicles how, since antiquity, mischief-makers have clandestinely shaped the past - from an Athenian slave to a Polish salt miner and from an advisor to the Ethiopian Queen to a girl escaping the Siege of Paris. Jessie becomes enthralled by the book and by her own mission to determine its accuracy.
Soon the History inspires Jessie to perform her own acts of mischief, unofficially becoming mischief-maker number 202 in an effort to cheer up her eccentric neighbour, Mrs Moran, and to comfort her new schoolfriend, Theo. However, not everything is as it seems. As Jessie delves deeper into the real story behind the History, she becomes convinced her grandmother holds the key to a long-held family secret.
The History of Mischief is about the many things we do to try to escape grief, and the stories we tell in order to protect ourselves and those we love.