Review Blog

Nov 23 2020

The heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon

cover image

University of Queensland Press, 2020. ISBN: 9780702262821. 177pp.
(Age: 10+) Recommended. Wonder Quinn lives in the archives of a cold, rustic school for girls called Direleafe Hall. Here she is completely ignored by her classmates and teacher Ms Gallow. She is a lonely, solitary girl whose only companion is a crow called Hollowbeak. Wonder longs for a friend and with the new school year a new student called Mabel Clattersham arrives. Wonder and Mabel instantly become friends and support each other in difficult times. We learn that Wonder's mother has died and Mabel has overly protective parents. Mabel also has a quirky list of seven things she wants to do, such as steal something. She also exacts revenge on the bully Georgiana Kinch. It becomes obvious to Wonder that Mabel is seriously unwell and is growing worse as she tries to cross the tasks off the list. By the end of this tender story there is a major reveal. I actually reread the book thinking I must have missed something!
This is a short fantasy and is simply written with large font. It has a delightful jacket and some large illustrations by Rachel Tribout, plus it comes with a real black feather bookmark. This format is a little deceptive and not really suitable for younger readers. The audience needs to be reasonably sophisticated because the subject matter has great emotional depth, dealing with love and particularly death. I found myself stopping and contemplating sentences such as, "You make marks as big as earthquakes in the lives of those who love you, but you disappear without a trace. You were here and you were not here, all at once." The characters themselves are symbolic. Hollowbeak represents reality and a pessimism that limits risk taking. Mabel is the joy and optimism that leads us to take risks in spite of inevitable death. Wonder is hesitant but drawn to Mabel's example of choosing to truly live life and striving to be true to yourself. It is recommended for confident readers 10+ years. Teacher's notes are available from the publisher.
Jo Marshall

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