A Review of Grayling’s Song, by Karen Cushman


Goodreads Rating: 4.00 Stars
224 Pages
Clarion Books
Expected Publication: June 7th, 2016

“Like all Karen Cushman’s gorgeous novels, Grayling’s Songdelves into the past to let us know what we must ask of our future.” –Lena Dunham

It’s time for Grayling to be a hero. Her mother, a wise woman a sort of witch has been turned into a tree by evil forces. Tangles and toadstools! Lacking confidence after years of being called Feeble Wits by her mother, Grayling heads off dubiously into the wilds in search of help, where she finds a weather witch, an aromatic enchantress, a cheese soothsayer, a slyly foolish apprentice, and a shape-shifting mouse named Pook!

A fast-paced and funny coming-of-age odyssey from a Newbery medalist.”

– – – – –

Quick Reasons: spunky characters; a plot twist I didn’t see coming; dark, atmospheric, and gorgeous writing; entertaining, often laugh-out-loud scenes coupled with huge adventure and action

Huge thanks to Karen Cushman, Clarion Books Publishers, and Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read or opinions.

No, really, I laughed out loud several times, to which the husband side-eyed me in concern. There might also have been an argument about why I CAN read midgrade novels without, in fact, being that age. I won the argument. The husband just doesn’t want to admit it. That’s okay, I know what the truth is.

There came a quivering in Grayling’s chest as if a flock of the grayling butterflies for which she was named were imprisoned there, and her face grew cold with fear.

Okay, guys—let’s jump into this! Starting with the language. Atmospheric, at times dark and moody…and so, so gorgeous! The descriptions leapt off the page, the action was fast-paced and easy to follow. The only thing I’d say about the language is, it’s a bit heavy-handed on five dollar dictionary words. I don’t know if you all know what I mean, but…the beginning, in particular, is especially dense. Some of the words I can’t imagine every child reading will understand, although the meaning is easily figured out from the context and the sentences surrounding. In other words, really young readers, or those struggling with the English language, might find this read a bit tedious and confusing.

I, on the other hand, found it absolutely GORGEOUS. The plot is fast-paced and action-packed; from the get-go, things happen in rapid succession. This helped not only keep me invested in and enthralled by the read, but also to fly through the pages. A quick page-turner this might be, but so so worth it in my opinion!

“This,” he said finally to Widow Bagley. “This cheese I will have, and I will give you two coppers for two rounds.”

Widow Bagley snorted. “Six coppers,” she said.

Sylvanus shook his head, “Six? Nonsense. ‘Tis thievery and greediness. I will give three.”

“Eight coppers,” said the widow.

“Eight? Nay. ‘Tis not done that way. When I increase my offer, you lower your price until we meet in the middle. Four, and that will be my last offer.”

“Twelve,” said the widow.

Sylvanus sputtered. “You do not understand bargaining. I increase, and you decrease. Now I offer six, and ’tis absolutely as high as I will go. What say you?”

“Done!” said the widow, and she spit on her hand and offered it to Sylvanus.

There are plenty of laugh-out-loud, snort-inducing moments. As mentioned above, I did those very things many times throughout, causing the husband to once again question my sanity. The characters are quirky, spunky, and wonderfully paired—a seemingly rag tag team of “misfits” brought together through need and “fate.”

And the coming of age story?! Brilliantly done. While it is unclear how old Grayling is at the start of this and how much time passes between the first page and the last (Grayling mentions near the end that her mom seems to have aged quite a bit, herself, in their time spent apart), the amount of growth and self-discovery Grayling faces is subtle…but so beautifully done.

Grayling called to Sylvanus, “You never told us—what is the first rule of magic?”

He spun round and called back to her, “ ‘Tis the hardest rule to learn: magic is not the answer. Magic may be convenient, brilliant, even dazzling, but it is not the answer.”

This is such a compelling, entertaining, and quirky read—I’m surprised I haven’t picked Karen Cushman’s work up before. You can bet I’ll be doing so more in the future! I had a ton of fun following Grayling, Auld Nancy, Pansy, Pook, and Sylvanus along their journey toward redemption and setting the world right. I feel lovers of midgrade, coming-of-age adventures, and spunky, flawed characters will also enjoy this book—and the morals I feel we can all learn a little bit from, no matter our age.


3 thoughts on “A Review of Grayling’s Song, by Karen Cushman

  1. Pingback: January Wrap-Up – betwixt-the-pages

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