Wicked's Way by Anna Fienberg

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Allen and Unwin, 2016. ISBN: 9781743319901
(Age: 9-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Pirates; Love; Choices; Magic; Adventure; Transformation; Good and Evil. A young boy, Will, raised in a loving island home with his mother, learns tightrope walking and believes that one day he will be a circus star. Unfortunately his mother disappears, and although briefly he discovers that life goes on with new opportunities and a new friend despite his loss, eventually disaster strikes and he is stolen by pirates. The gentle Will is broken by the harshness of the tyrannical pirate captain, and renamed Wicked. The life on board a pirate ship is not pleasant, and the relationships that are formed are difficult. Wicked slowly becomes a shadow of his former self, and his desire to rediscover his mother and his friend slowly become a distant hope. A mutiny and some poor choices eventually lead Wicked to a solitary island existence with a talking parrot who shares pithy sayings and adages, and then there is an unfortunate re-encounter with someone who could not be trusted. This ultimately leads Wicked to rediscover himself and to be reshaped back into the trusting and open-hearted person from his past.
This is a story of restoration (and redemption) and the transformation from gentle Will to Wicked and back again is an interesting journey told within the medium of a Pirate adventure with a small dose of magical influence. With the reappearance of Horrendo from Fienberg's Horrendo's Curse there is also a rediscovery of the power of the friendly and amiable Horrendo.
Highly Recommended. This tale would make a great read-aloud story within a school context for ages 9-12. There is much to discuss about Will's emotional journey and Horrendo's influence. The metaphor of the tightrope journey - just place one foot in front of the other, and stay focused on the prize; plus the wisdom of a parrot could lead to many discussions.
Carolyn Hull