I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin
Published by Penguin Group USA on 2014
Genres: Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, Parents, Social Issues, Young Adult
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A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or “Little John” as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree. There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties. But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy. Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale's Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.
Oh my goodness, I love fairy tale retellings aimed at middle graders. When I saw a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale pop up on Netgalley, I knew I had to read it, even though I am not totally entirely familiar with the origin story. Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin is a story that makes great use of magical realism to tell a story about family, friendship, and hard work over one summer. It is moving, painful and sweet. This is the sort of middle grade that transcends the age category.
Nightingale’s Nest is about main character Little John who is spending the summer working with his father at a landscaping business. The two are contracted to cut down trees on Mr. King’s property. FYI the whole town calls Mr. King the Emperor because he is super rich and everyone else is relatively poor. So, anyways, Little John is in the situation where his home life is falling apart because his sister died and his mom is having delusions about her still being alive and his dad is drinking away the rent money and his problems. Yet, Little John’s issues pale in comparison to that of a foster girl living next door to Mr. King. While cutting some trees up, Little John hears the most beautiful song and comes across a little girl named Gayle who kind of reminds him of his sister. She is being fostered by the Cutlins who are awful and mean and who leave marks on her. Anyways, Mr. King takes a shining to Gayle’s song and makes Little John or Tree as Gayle calls him an offer that he cannot refuse.
For the most part, I liked how Little John and Gayle interacted, but I will be honest and say that some of the interactions moved kind of slowly for me. I will admit that I did pick this book back up again after finishing Isla And The Happily Ever After, so talk about a total genre change. And I don’t know, maybe that colored my perception of the book because I was just not that into Gayle being totally weird towards John. However. I did like the interaction between John and his father, and how John was slowly discovering what it means to be a man. His dad is not always the best sort of man, given that he drinks all of his paycheck and has a heavy hand from time to time, yet he works hard and tries to provide for his family. I just liked seeing how Little John notices that his dad is not perfect and has these failings and how he considers them in perspective to his life.
Honestly, I cannot speak to whether this works as a retelling or not, as I’ve not actually read The Nightingale, or at least not that I can remember. What I will say is that the magic element is woven in a way that feels relatively natural. I mean, the magic does not overwhelm the book, and okay listen I am someone who loves a lot of magic, but I also like it when it’s subtle. I like that we have musical magic in this book and the ending! THE ENDING IS FULL OF MAGIC and you have to suspend disbelief, but it totally works.
Who Would I Recommend This Book To:
- Fairytale fans – especially people who are into Hans Christian Andersen
- People who liked Breadcrumbs
- People who love books with DIVERSITY (perfect cover, am I right?)
- People who like books with complex and painful family relationships