Reviews: Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin

Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin (Razorbill, Expected Publication: February 2014)

When I first heard about this book,  I couldn’t wait to read it.  A middle grade fantasy with gorgeous cover art and a story that references Hans Christian Andersen’s  “The Nightingale“? That’s a surefire way to pique my interest.   Sometimes this backfires on me and my high hopes just don’t live up to the actual text.  But after reading this, I’m happy to report it exceeded expectations.

Twelve-year-old Little John is  spending his summer in Texas working for his father clearing brush and trees from Mr. King’s property.  While he’s working, he hears someone singing–and he’s astonished to find the sweet voice to a little girl hiding out in a tree.  Young Gayle is something rare in Little John’s life, a bit of happiness in a life that has become shadowed by regret and loss.  This half-wild girl sees Little John as her protector, someone she’s willing to trust and share her secrets with.  Secrets like the magic of her healing song.  But Little John’s family is struggling to survive, and when Mr. King makes Little John an offer, he’ll have to choose between helping his family, and betraying his new friend. This is a story of growing up and the weight of responsibility.  A story of beauty and the price of betrayal.  A story of magic and hope.

If you’re not familiar with Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Nightingale“, you might want to look it up prior to reading this story–but it’s not strictly necessary.  Nikki Loftin uses the fairy tale imagery and elements, evoking echoes of the tale, but composes a contemporary story all her own.  As you might already guess from the summary and the fact that it draws on Andersen, this isn’t an easy story to read.     When the story opens, Little John and his family are already suffering from deep pain and loss.  Little John is lost, separated from the boyhood he had, but nowhere near becoming a man.  When magic comes into his life it comes in the form of a waif of a girl who can sing with astonishing beauty and is in need of a friend and protector.   It’s a hard story to read . . . you can see the betrayals on the horizon, and the bitter choices that Little John will make.  But it is also a beautiful story tinged with redemption and hope for a better day.

Thoughtful tween readers who enjoy a powerful story with a bittersweet ending will want to pick this one up.  It’s a rare and beautiful treasure, lightly brushed with magic.

Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.

Publisher: Razorbill

Expected Publication Date: February 2014

ISBN13:      9781595145468

Recommended for grades 5 and up.


About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on January 20, 2014, in General Posts, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I read just enough of your post to make sure you liked it! It is on my pile even as I type….

  2. This sounds wonderful, Steph. You made me add this to my ‘want list’. Thanks.

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