February 18, 2018

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The Song from Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold | SLJ Review

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redstarHARROLD, A.F. The Song from Somewhere Else. illus. by Levi Pinfold. 240p. Bloomsbury. Jul. 2017. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781681194011.

Gr 4-6 –Strong characterizations and a good dose of spookiness are standouts in this illustrated novel. After a strange boy named Nick rescues her from bullies, Frank begins a cautious friendship with her unpopular classmate. When she hears mysterious and beautiful music coming from Nick’s cellar, Frank secretly investigates. She discovers a “leechway” that acts as a door to alternate realities. Nick’s nonhuman mother lives in one of them; so do creepy “stick-creatures” who seem eager to invade our world. The two kids play heroic, save-the-world roles in an action-packed climax, but there’s just as much tension in the carefully paced plot that leads up to it. Third-person narration conveys Frank’s inner thoughts and perceptions, revealing a tentative, flawed, but quite likable protagonist. Amusing inner dialogues with her nervous stomach show how the girl struggles with self-esteem, courage, and ethical choices. She comes through bravely against the stick-figures, but there’s a different, equally satisfying triumph in a final scene where she defends a child from bullies. The eeriness builds slowly as Frank gradually learns more about the leechway. The ominous mood is aided by atmospheric black-and-white drawings that capture the shadowy menace creeping into Frank’s world. VERDICT Hand to fans of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, Holly Black’s Doll Bones, and other books that balance scariness and substance.–Steven Engelfried, ­Wilsonville Public Library, OR

This review was published in the School Library Journal May 2017 issue.

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