Grayling’s Song, by Karen Cushman, for MMGM
This was a serendipitous find, which I stumbled across in my local library. And very appropriate, too, since it’s the kind of tale which is all mystery and shadow wrapped in good practical knowledge like every librarian possesses. You may recognize the author’s name–Karen Cushman–as I did. My favorite book by her is Catherine, Called Birdy, and her books have won the Newbery Honor as well as the Medal. Gorgeous books! But today’s spotlight is on Grayling’s Song.
When Grayling hears her mother calling, she’s a bit slow to respond. Her mother’s name is Hannah Strong…and that last name fits well. In a manor typical of many a firmly fixed or strong-willed mother and her daughter, Grayling feels overshadowed by her mother and terribly un-capable. Unfortunately, what she finds when she comes to her mother is that their home has been destroyed by fire, taking with it all but a handful of the supplies her mother uses to carry out her work as a hedge witch, or wise woman. Even worse, the incredible has happened. A malignant magical force has rooted Grayling’s mother to the ground, and she is slowly and mercilessly being turned into a tree.
It falls to Grayling to save the day, despite her fears and reluctance. She’s never gone out in the world, and has no magic or cleverness to smooth her way. At first the reader worries for her, because it does seem she’s missing those tools a hero needs. But as she grows in determination and resourcefulness, we see her flower. Her own humility makes it easy for her to see value in others whose magic or skills would normally be considered unworthy of notice. Her tender care helps her keep her small group together and moving forward. She faces everything from deep hunger, to an evil overlord, and even a dragon. What’s amazing is that she does not develop some spectacular, unknown talent. There is no wild magic for her, or stunning skill. What she accomplishes she does through cultivating those things inside her which she had when she left her little valley–by growing into her best self. How lovely is that?
But enough from me. Let’s see what Apricot-kitty has to say:
“Such an odd thing, that this girl would be able to save everyone when people with much greater power couldn’t. And…yes. It was amazing what her small companion accomplished so much, as well, even though he was something I’d cheerfully eat for dinner!”
I couldn’t say it better myself. This one is a great blend of adventure and character growth, that I think would make an excellent classroom read, as well as one that many young readers would embrace and read independently. For other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday spotlights, reviews, interviews and giveaways, stop by Shannon Messengers blog, and happy reading!