My Name is Lizzie Flynn by Claire Saxby
Published by Black Dog Books
Beautifully written and illustrated, this picture book is based on the actual journey of a convict ship in 1841. I was captivated from the first compelling words – “All I own in this world is my name: Lizzie Flynn. It is all I take with me as we are hustled aboard the Rajah, a cargo of convict women.” Claire Saxby has skilfully used a thirteen year old (documented in the convict list for the ship) to tell the story of the voyage and the quilt that the women collaborated to make, to enable children to enter into the experiences of Australia’s convict forebears. It is exquisitely written in hauntingly beautiful first person prose – it is evocative yet simple.
Newcomb’s painted illustrations illuminate the text and mood perfectly - The convicts leave a colourless London, on a dreary, dull and dismal passage and arrive in an Australia full of fresh colour and hope. Whilst the journey has its horrific moments with the death of Lizzie’s friend and the women stuck in the putrid hold during a storm, the colour palette and the naïf illustrations set the mood and tone perfectly, without being too graphic for children. The patches of blue sky horizon and blue/green sea always provide a glimmer of hope, and the strategic arrangement of the illustrations on each page masterfully frames the mood.
The tale of the Rajah quilt is fascinating - a human story weaving together disparate and desperate women amidst the misery of deportation. Saxby has woven a fictional yet believable personal narrative around it that will resonate with children. A photograph of the quilt which now hangs in the National Gallery of Australia and some fascinating information about it conclude the book.
My Name is Lizzie Flynn is a brilliantly conceived and produced work, and the combination of words and pictures is divine. At the very least, this book should be in every school library in Australia.
A captivating and haunting historical narrative rendered perfectly as a picture book for primary aged children.
CKT Book Reviewer
Author: Claire Saxby
Illustrator: Lizzy Newcomb
Title: My Name is Lizzie Flynn
Publisher: Black Dog Books
Published: June 2015