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Review of Grayling’s Song

cushman_grayling's songGrayling’s Song
by Karen Cushman
Intermediate    Clarion    210 pp.
6/16    978-0-544-30180-1    $16.99    g

Cushman’s previous works (The Midwife’s Apprentice, rev. 7/95; Will Sparrow’s Road, rev. 11/12; etc.) fall into the realm of historical fiction; this novel is historically based but a fantasy, set in a culture inspired by, but not wedded to, medieval Europe. It’s a moral tale with a simple lesson: it is not magic but rather “courage, cleverness, imagination, good judgment, and good sense” that make for a hero who can overcome evil. When her wise-woman mother begins to morph into a tree, Grayling sets out to find her mother’s missing book of spells in the hope of combatting the vaguely defined evil force responsible for the nasty enchantment. “Neither brave nor eager for adventure,” she succeeds nonetheless in gathering a gaggle of modestly gifted witches and wizards (traversing en route many a bramble thicket and icy watercourse). In the end, unmagical Grayling herself solves the problem and, more notably, realizes her own strength in leadership. Cushman’s simple narrative line of one mishap after another is enlivened by her customary down-to-earth, often comic language (“Oh, rats and rabbit droppings!” exclaims Grayling); and by her opinionated cast of characters.

From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker About Deirdre Baker

Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca
at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the
past tense.

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