Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
This is a book bursting with energy, nicely combining story, issues, wise advice and hilarious situations.
Scarlett, ten years old, enthusiastically lives her life but this is punctuated by explosions of anger and frustration with sometimes unfortunate and unintended results. On one occasion, at the family wedding, the guests are splattered with chocolate cake after one such instance.
Scarlett and her friend Maisie go to a school with small classes and a teacher named Ms Pit Bull. There is an entertainingly related trip to a Wild Life park, a Christmas concert and playground antics.
Without intruding and appearing obvious, Maz Evans has introduced some contemporary topics. Scarlett’s Dad has a prosthesis, having been born with one arm. She refers to it as his Prosecco, and his ‘difference’ is readily accepted.
Her Aunty Amara marries Aunty Rosa, and, with exception of a mention of disapproval by a few, friends and family of the couple celebrate with gusto.
She also learns that nobody has a perfect life. Polly, the new girl, very clever, popular and successful in all school activities, Scarlett learns has had a father who died recently.
Lighthearted, chatty, the narrative powers along. Jacob is her step-daddy, (she imagines he can help her get into the loft, like a ladder!). William U, one of her classmates, has a syndrome for every negative situation. Then there is Granny’s use of olden day words, like poppycock, balderdash and…. video recorder!
Scarlett loves Maths, its precision and certainty. Language, on the other hand, puzzles her with its scope and often confusing meaning. It makes negotiating the adult world difficult at times.
Many of the current political and social issues are touched on in a way that makes them acceptable, even ordinary. Multi-cultural inclusivity, disability, foreign language acquisition, and anger management.
I like the discretion in mentioning that one of the children’s dads had gone to visit Her Majesty for a while so he could consider his choices.
Scarlett realises that her divorced father is using a dating sight. The profiles he screens are, she is aware, quite false in most cases! She knows she is lucky that her parents’ divorce has been a happy one, to the extent that her Dad and Jakob her step father, are good friends. Many, she knows are not so fortunate.
It is the advice from her Aunt that is the pivotal part of the book. Amara tells her that anger is natural, but we you must learn to control it. It is important in achieving great things. Rose Park and civil rights are mentioned and Emmeline Pankhurst’s fight for gender equality. Scarlett practises techniques for controlling her angry outbursts.
It all ends joyfully. Problems evaporate.
Maz Evans has written a book that is a happy blend of a girl living a thoroughly modern life of a feisty little schoolgirl while introducing a more realistic side. Some authors may not have succeeded in effortlessly weaving some rather ponderous subjects into a hilarious romp that is Scarlett’s life, a lively ten-year-old….
Her engaging narrative is partnered by Chris Jevons’s wonderfully funny illustrations which perfectly suit its laughter-inducing style.
The Exploding Life of Scarlett Fife
by Maz Evans
ISBN 978 14449 5767 9