Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon

A friend who saw her heart and loved it and knew it was good.

Wonder Quinn is a student at Direleafe Hall. Every year she watches new students arriving. Every year she hopes one of the new students might truly see her and might become her friend. Wonder only has one friend - a crow named Hollowbeak.  Wonder is an orphan and she lives in the school, in a tiny, out of the way room, which is used to store the old school archives. It is heart wrenching to read:

"The rows of leather-bound books, blanketed in grit .... The candle she kept in an old bottle, for when the nights get too dark ... And her rough woollen blanket."

Look at this word placement - grit, too dark, rough.

Here is another example of the way Kate Gordon hints at the character of Wonder:

"Wonder was quiet. Wonder whispered. Wonder dwindled into the background and she had no particular talents, except that she was good at watching."

It is a new year and a new student does arrive and in an utterly beautiful moment she sits down next to Wonder and she speaks the most precious of words - "Pleased to meet you, Wonder Quinn,' Mable said, with a smile. 'Let's be friends, shall we?"

Mable is a wonderful girl full of energy and good ideas. She has a list which she shares with Wonder, of all the things she wants to do: steal something; leap into the sky; touch a star; make someone feel pure happiness; throw a pie; hold a baby bird. There is one more thing on her list but I am not sharing this because it will spoil the story.

Let's talk about names. Wonder Quinn - she wonders if she will ever find a true friend, she herself is a wonder, and as a reader you will wonder why no one seems to wonder about or indeed even notice her.  Mabel Clattersham sounds like such a warm, old fashioned name. I'd like to be her friend.  Georgiana Kinch is the school bully. Georgiana is a 'posh' name making her sound rich and superior but it is the surname that I really like. Kinch - ryhmes with pinch, and it has such a nasty sound. Wonder has one friend as I mentioned, a crow, called Hollowbeak. He is wise and loyal.

I read The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn in one sitting. It is a story that gently unfolds allowing the reader to gradually "see" the characters and make sense of their lives. As an adult reader I don't find the cover illustration very appealing but readers aged 10+ (probably mostly girls) may be drawn to this sad dark-eyed girl. The print size is large and this is a short book of 172 pages which might make you think it is for a younger audience but I think the writing and themes better suit a slightly older reader.

If you pick up this book (it is due to be published in September) page 150-151 will give you a good way to gauge the tone of this writing. They are my favourite pages - it's a poem from Mable to Wonder.

Publishers often make comparisons with other books as a way of marketing a new title. These can sometimes be a little bit tenuous but with The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn I heartily agree with the UQP suggestion that this book has a similar emotional feel to The Naming of Tishkin Silk and that it could also be enjoyed by fans of Tensy Farlow and the home for mislaid children.

I would pair The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn with Magrit by Lee Battersby.

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