Nightingale's Nest

256p. Penguin/Razorbill. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781595145468.
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
When Little John meets Gayle, they're both missing someone: John's sister has died and Gayle's parents have abandoned her. Little John knows that there's something magical about Gayle's beautiful singing, and he's faced with a difficult choice when the most powerful man in town aches to possess it. This arresting tale of magical realism is filled with resonant emotions packaged in graceful prose.

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