Scarlet Ibis ISBN: 9780192793553
Published by Oxford University Press, 2014
This serious and beautifully written novel has a central theme of nurturing - the nurturing of children and of birds. Scarlet Ibis Mackenzie has a strong sense of family. Throughout her twelve years, family has meant everything to her, even though her mother has serious mental health issues, and her brother, Red, is somewhere on the autistic spectrum and needs special care. It is Scarlet who keeps the family going and who has developed a very special relationship with her eight year old brother and his obsession with birds. She also is the carer for both mum and Red. Scarlet never knew her Trinidadian father, but she carries his 'soft caramel' colour, and she and Red share a story that one day they will go back to Trinidad and see the flight of the Scarlet Ibis birds. Their mother is white, as was Red's father, and he has inherited his dad's red hair. The novel includes a baby pigeon that needs help, a fire in the family flat that means the children are separated and their mum is in hospital, a social worker that does her best but is neither trusted nor liked, a loving and caring foster family, and an old lady who seems to outsiders to be mad, but who shares Red's obsession with and love of birds. There is a happy ending for the two children, and their mother is getting help, although the chances are that they will be with their foster parents long-term. This is a page-turner, sensitive and real, and Scarlet is a heroine to love and admire. Wonderful!