MG Takes on Thursday – The Song That Sings Us

#MGTakesOnThursday was created by Mary over at Book Craic and is a brilliant way to shout about some brilliant MG books!

To join in, all you need to do is:

  • Post a picture of the front cover of a middle-grade book which you have read and would recommend to others with details of the author, illustrator and publisher.
  • Open the book to page 11 and share your favourite sentence. 
  • Write three words to describe the book.
  • Either share why you would recommend this book, or link to your review.

This week, I’ve chosen a book I read at the start of the year and which I remain convinced will be in my top books of the year still by December, it was fabulous…

The Song that Sings Us by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Jackie Morris, published by Firefly

I love a bit of environmental dystopia in my middle grade reads and this is up there with the best I’ve read! In fact, having returned to it to write my review a couple of months after reading I desperately want to be drawn back in to read it all over again!

It’s no longer safe in Rumyc. Those in power distrust nature and are systematically hunting down those with an affinity, or even a sympathy or liking, for it. Technology, manufacturing, cities, synthetics are valued above all else; efficiency, power, control and greed acting, of course, as great motivators for the Automators running Rumyc.

And so it is that – in one of the most nail-biting, dramatic and relentless opening chapters I’ve ever read – we encounter Harlon, Ash and Xeno reluctantly leaving their mother as she shoots to defend them; fleeing their home as it erupts in flames, chased down by Automators and their weapons.

Their mother saw them off with a mysterious but urgent mission that they should seek an island not on any map, lost in the deepest ocean, but shortly after their quest begins they lose each other and so begins not one but three epic quests across land and sea, all weathers and terrains, encountering many surprising characters, both friend and foe (and somewhere in between) along the way.

The various characters they encounter are all exceptionally well drawn, complex – and often conflicted. With a cast as large and wide-ranging as this, it would be easy for characters to seem similar, superficial or flat but that couldn’t be farther from the truth here. Each feels like they’ve had time and care spent on them, they’re unique and individual, their histories convincing, their personalities and emotions real and believable.

The way animals communicate has clearly been carefully considered too so it never becomes twee or caricatured, and most importantly they never feel ‘secondary’. They are equal and very clearly so.

Likewise the connections we uncover between the characters as we move through the story cleverly mirror the idea of us all being linked that underpins it, and adds layers, clever twists and shock reveals, with both lightbulb moments and satisfied smiles for the reader.

While this is emphatically a book for nature lovers, it’s safe to say it’s also not for the faint of heart. This is not a book with cute, fluffy animals, furry friends and docility. This is a book that knows how to rear up and bare its teeth.

It is gritty, action-packed and relentless. There is horrifying destruction, damage and danger in an increasingly chilling yet plausible world.

However, it is also utterly beautiful and incredibly lyrical. The use of language is fantastic and the way it moves from frenetic, tense action to weaving a nature-filled song or whispering words is impressive. Indeed, singing, songs and words are integral to the way we see the connections drawn between all things; humans, animals, plants, the world…we are all interlinked through a song of sorts.

Stunningly written and very much both a timely warning and an environmental call to arms, I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. It will undoubtedly be in my books of the year and deserves to be so much bigger than it seems to be yet. There doesn’t seem to be a paperback release in the pipeline which is a shame, because while the hardback, with stunning illustrations from Jackie Morris, is an absolutely beautiful thing, an equally well presented paperback would undoubtedly get this into the hands of so many more readers.

My favourite sentence from page 11:

Everything seems to get faster and faster. More disjointed. Sense, muscles, joints are close to overload and still the birds pursue them.

This book in three words:

Wildness. Rebellion. Lyricism.

Have you read this?


2 thoughts on “MG Takes on Thursday – The Song That Sings Us

Add yours

  1. Thanks for bringing this to my attention Rachael, I haven’t come across it at all. From your review it sounds as if it should have had a lot more attention. Adding to my wish list on your recommendation 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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