Author: Loftin, Nikki
In this twist on "The Nightingale," Little John, despite his own poverty and grief, reaches out to Gayle, an unhappy foster child living next door who sings beautifully and hides a great secret.
|Accelerated Reader Information:
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.20
Points: 8.0 Quiz: 165736
|Reading Counts Information:
Interest Level: 3-5
Reading Level: 3.50
Points: 13.0 Quiz: 63206
School Library Journal (00/03/14)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/04/14)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 03/01/2014 Gr 3–6—Pulling readers in from the very first page, Loftin's novel shares the enchanting quality of the Andersen fairy tale that inspired it. Packed with serious subjects (child abuse, mental illness, death, and poverty), it is also the story of forgiveness, healing, and friendship. Little John is only 12, but he bears the burdens of the death of his sister, his mother's ensuing breaks with reality, his father's drinking, and the family's dire financial situation. His life is brightened after a chance encounter with Gayle, a young girl with the voice of a nightingale. Along with her magically beautiful and healing voice, Gayle brings problems of her own to add to Little John's load. Forced to sacrifice his new friend in order to help his desperate family, Little John is full of despair and self-loathing. How he resolves this and comes to terms with all of his relationships comprise the remainder of the story. The setting is vivid and readers will feel the oppressive summer heat as the protagonist engages in back-breaking work alongside his father. The plot rolls along at a consistent pace and there is enough suspense to keep readers turning pages. It is Loftin's skill in depicting both the human and the arboreal characters that will engage and inspire readers. The lyrical, descriptive prose and the hopeful ending will linger long after the final chapter.—Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY - Copyright 2014 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 04/01/2014 At twelve-years old, “Little John” Fischer isn’t so little anymore. A recent growth spurt allows him to help his father earn money chopping and hauling trees-work that’s physically demanding and emotionally devastating, given his younger sister’s recent fatal fall from a dead branch. Drowning in the guilt of not having caught her, Little John plays along when his mother talks as if his sister’s still alive; he also ignores his father’s drinking and hides his family’s dwindling solvency from his best friend by avoiding him completely. Lonely and unbearably sad, he meets Gayle, an abused foster child with a magical voice that enchants the birds and heals the wounded. She trusts Little John immediately, leaping into his arms from her “nest,” the branch of a tree where she claims her parents will find her one day, and even following him into the home of Mr. King, the wealthy and unnerving landowner from whom she usually flees. When Little John sells her voice-and her trust-to Mr. King for the money to cover his family’s rent, he knows he must make it right, no matter the cost. Magical realism meets coming of age in this sensitive and haunting novel, with the relentless, eroding effects of family tragedy in full relief. Sympathetic but not saccharine, Loftin’s portrayal of Little John, with his tremendous sense of responsibility and his unflagging feeling of guilt, as well as his need for love and acceptance, will resonate with readers who carry life’s burdens. The otherworldly Gayle will captivate their imaginations as she flutters in and out of reach, singing the injured back to health and calling the birds to her with her voice, but it’s Little John who will capture their hearts. Read this aloud and have both boys and girls alike utterly enraptured. AA - Copyright 2014 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.