Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy
* Rebecca Caudill Award Nominee 2011 *
12-year-old Scarlett is living in London with her preoccupied Mum. Yes, there are European terms in this book, but the languages only enhance the story. The Gaelic terms are perfectly entwined in this story. It has been two years since Scarlett's parents divorced. She has been kicked out of five schools. She describes one of her teachers as a turnip-faced dictator. Perhaps she has been given "one-last-chance" too many times. She has a hard time coping because she feels abandoned by her father and has never read any of his letters. The mother doesn't know what to do so she sends Scarlett to live with her father, his new wife and his step-daughter. If that wasn't enough, the wife will be giving birth to another child after Scarlett arrives.
They live in the remote countryside in Ireland. Scarlett feels as if she doesn't fit anywhere. Her Mum doesn't return her phone calls. So Scarlett doesn't answer any of her phone calls or read any of her letters. The new one-room schoolhouse doesn't work for Scarlett. She is home-schooled. Her only salvation is the Lough Choill (literally - lake of the hazel tree.). It is there where she meets a mysterious boy named Kian. He rides bareback on a dark horse named Midnight. Kian is wild but wise and helps Scarlett develop resiliency.
A questionable part of this book is that Scarlett and Kian spend a night out by the lough. This does not detract from the magic of this place and the special growing-up time in her life. The setting is beautifully described. This book goes a long way to incorporate divorce, blended families, moving, and worldly perspectives. Isn't "pedal bin" more beautiful than "garbage can"?