The song from somewhere else by A.F. Harrold

cover image

Ill. by Levi Pinfold. Bloomsbury, 2016. ISBN 9781408879337
(Age: 9+) Recommended. Fantasy. Bullying. Acceptance. Fear. Friendship. This is an amazing story of bullying and friendship, yet it also enters into the fantasy world that lives in parallel to our own world. Frank (or Francesca) is alone while her friend is away on holidays and her pet cat has gone missing. The story begins with an encounter with the local Junior School bully and his two goons while she is out putting up Missing Cat posters. Her fear rises and overtakes her until Nick, the big ostracised kid from her class, rescues her from another incident of humiliation. Unfortunately he is not a 'Prince Charming', but rather is the lumpish and large kid who is also the butt of everyone's jokes, and the one that everyone in class avoids because he smells. Without realising it, Frank becomes Nick's friend, and the connection between the two lonely kids is tightened by the mystical and magical music that floats from within Nick's house and which has a restorative influence on Frank, but is also part of the intrigue of the unusual Nick. This music entices Frank's curiosity, and she becomes acquainted with Nick's fantastic family secret. The tangles that this weaves are like shadows that creep around in the middle of the night, with the capacity to trip you over in the uncertainty of each step forward. Frank's encounters with the fantasy world raise her uncertainties about how to act; the moral dilemmas she has to face confront her with her selfishness and her struggles to be friends with the boy she formerly shunned. But the story ends well, despite her mistakes.
The black and white illustrations in this book are atmospheric and ethereal in some places, which adds a hint of mystery to the story. Although we have a fantasy tale at the heart of the story, it is also a 'real-life' tale of friendship, acceptance and the impact of fear. Frank's quirky family adds an element of humour to the otherwise dark mystery. There is nothing in here that would cause nightmares, but it is a moving tale of overcoming dark influences.
Carolyn Hull