At the end of last term a number of my classes and I shared the wonderful book The Talking Eggs. Blanche, the hero of the story, goes to the house of the old woman and encounters multicoloured chickens that sing like nightingales. I like finding connections like this. We don't have nightingales here in Australia but I found this little film of one singing and it certainly is a beautiful sound. The famous fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson and in particular The Nightingale is another interesting connection with The secret of Nightingale Wood. On the 2nd April we celebrated the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson and copies of this fairly tale were part of my display.
"I had always been Henry, even though my full name was Henrietta Georgina Abbott. Maybe my parents wanted two boys. Now that my brother Robert had gone, they had two girls. Just me and Piglet."
Listen to an audio sample read by the author herself from Chapter 8. Here is a review well worth reading. In this video the author talks about her book.
Lets start by looking at the names in this book :
Hope House - Little Henrietta does not stop hoping her mother will recover
Nightingale Wood - a place of mystery and magic
Helldon - the old lunatic asylum and a place that terrifies young Henry.
I read one review with the word atmospheric - the perfect word to describe this mysterious story. Henry with her mum, dad and new baby sister (nicknamed Piglet) have moved to Hope House - a long way from their original home in London. Clearly there has been a tragedy. Her brother Robert is dead but readers have to be patient to discover how this has happened. These events are slowly explained in a style reminiscent of The Secret Garden and Tom's Midnight Garden. Almost as soon as they arrive at Hope House, Henry's father leaves. The children are left in the care of Nanny Jane and a village lady called Mrs Berry who comes each day to cook their meals. Father has also enlisted the help of the local doctor - Doctor Hardy. Henry is immediately suspicious about his motives and methods and her fears are further confirmed when the doctor declares he intends to send Mrs Abbott to Helldon and carry off little baby Piglet to his own house.
"Dr Hardy's hands were fat and crushing, but his wife's were cold and scaly and her fingernails were thick, yellow claws. I felt as if I had just shaken hands with a giant lizard."
Throughout this book there are references to classic children's stories, poetry and famous fairy tales. Perhaps reading this book might inspire young readers to seek out these classics.
Here are a few :
- The Railway Children
- The Secret Garden
- Wind in the Willows
- The Owl and the Pussycat
- Alice in Wonderland
- The Red Shoes
- The Pied Piper of Hamelin
- Peter Pan
- Treasure Island
- Little Women