Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Song from Somewhere Else by AF Harrold illustrated by Levi Pinfold

First of all a warning. The Song from Somewhere else is a book for a very mature reader in my view - I found the bullying scenes raw and confronting. I remember when this book was released in 2016 I was unsure whether to purchase it for my school library.  Having at last read this powerful story I do think it is suitable for a Primary library but I would restrict the loans to Grade 6 students.  I found these comments by one reviewer which confirm my feelings :  a palpable sense of dread, mystery and growing up ...

Francesca, known as Frank, has been having awful confrontations with a bully called Neil Noble and his two henchmen although she has no idea why they keep attacking her. There is also a boy at school called Nick Underbridge.  He is the outsider. He is shunned by the other children. They think his size is odd and his smell strange but it is Nick who bravely comes to her after an especially horrid attack by Neil.  Now Frank is torn.  Can she be friends with Nick? What will the others say? Then when she visits his home she hears the most beautiful music :

"No piece of music she'd ever heard on the radio or in the background of a tv show had ever made her feel so special, had made her feel so cared for, so improved.  ... that music. There was something in it, ... that lifted her spirits, that made her feel light and hollow and almost happy."

Frank is so curious about this music that she overcomes her inner voice and visits Nick again. Discovering the source of the music is a shock. There are connections to another world and now she has knowledge of a deep secret that must not be revealed.  The cruelty of Neil becomes extreme and to her horror Frank is forced to reveal Nick's secret. The battle between good and evil cannot be avoided but will Nick survive, will he forgive her, will Frank forgive herself?

The action in this tightly constructed story takes place over just five days and you will be on the edge of your seat and, perhaps as I was, also filled with horror as Frank endures the physical torture inflicted by Neil and her own personal torture as she struggles with her conscious.

You might like to read my review of The Imaginary another book by AF Harrold. There is a strong connection between these two books especially in the scenes of battles between good and evil.  For readers who want to explore other books which explore the violence inflicted by bullies you might look for The Present Takers by Aidan Chambers, Benjamin Dove and Wolf Hollow.  You might also look for an old book called Under the Mountain by New Zealand author Maurice Gee which has this same concept of other worlds.

The publisher web site has a first chapter extract and teacher notes.  You can see some of the brilliant art from this book below and on Levi Pinfold's web site.  I was excited to read he is from Australia. By chance the next book on my reading pile is also illustrated by Levi - The Secret Horses of Briar Hill.  Here is a Q&A with Levi.

Here are some reviews and it is interesting to see all have listed a younger recommended age group :

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