A kindhearted Texas boy finds his life transformed by an enigmatic girl whose singing has the power to heal in this novel-length spin on Andersen’s "The Nightingale."
Twelve-year-old “Little” John’s father works for the “Emperor,” the wealthy owner of a chain of dollar stores. John grieves for his little sister, who was killed when she fell from a tree, and blames himself for not catching her. His financially strapped father drinks too much, and his mother’s depressed. Clearing brush near the Emperor’s house, John hears magical singing that “seep[s] right through” him like “a honey-soft river of sound.” Unsure if it’s a bird or a girl, he discovers a fragile, ethereal, birdlike 8-year-old girl named Gayle perched in a sycamore tree. John instinctively wants to protect Gayle from her foster mother, from her precarious living conditions (a twig nest) and from the Emperor, who offers John $500 to convince her to sing for him so he can record her perfect voice. To help his parents, John betrays Gayle with nearly disastrous results. John narrates his story in fluid, lyrical prose, Loftin blending the raw realism of a boy who makes the wrong choice with the fairy-tale magic of a girl with a nightingale voice.
Unusual, finely crafted story of loss, betrayal and healing. (Magical realism. 8-12)