Review Blog

Nov 16 2015

Heartsong by Kevin Crossley-Holland

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Ill. by Jane Ray. Orchard Books, 2015. ISBN 9781408336069
(Age: 8-12) Highly recommended. Themes: Music; Abandonment; Orphans; Resilience. This novella was inspired by a visit to Venice and the Vivaldi Museum. There the Illustrator, Jane Ray, found an entry in a Venetian orphanage ledger of one girl, Laura, among many girls; one name among many foundling children who were gifted to the orphanage to be protected and to receive sanctuary during the time that Vivaldi worked there as music master (c1724). From the illustrations and imaginings of Ray, came the idea of a story that Crossley-Holland completed with words that are unadorned yet atmospheric. This artistic collaboration wafts like a performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons through this simple story of the life of Laura, the mute orphan who discovers music, and her own musical talent. Her 'heartsong' plays through her struggles as the abandoned child with no history and her lack of her own words finds voice through her music.
This is a beautiful story, a treasure like the masterful playing of a haunting piece of music. It lifts and carries the reader as we discover the filaments of joy and sadness in the life of this child. Woven through the threads of narrative, we get an insight into the life of the composer Vivaldi as he works with the orphan children to create an orchestra. We also get a glimpse of the human responses to abandonment from the perspective of the foundling children, those who came to be there 'the ordinary way - through the hatch in the wall of the orphanage'.
Highly recommended for young readers 8-12, it will also be loved by adults who read it aloud with a younger audience.
Carolyn Hull

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