The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn (Kate Gordon, UQP)
Kate Gordon won the IBBY Ena Noël Award in 2016 and her YA novel Girl Running, Boy Falling was longlisted in the 2019 CBCA Awards for older readers. The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is Gordon’s 10th book for children, and the first to sit squarely in the middle-grade bracket. Perched atop the roof of Direleafe Hall, orphaned Wonder Quinn longs for a friend other than her mopey companion, Hollowbeak the crow. However, one day Mabel Clattersham strikes up a conversation with Wonder in class and she is seen for the first time in decades. The two girls quickly form a strong bond based on kindness and their shared spirit of adventure. But how did Mabel notice Wonder when no one else can? And why is Mabel so recklessly pursuing her bucket list, which includes throwing a pie, leaping into the sky and breaking someone’s heart? This faintly gothic tale addresses themes of loyalty, bravery, honesty and loss. The intense focus on the central relationship is at the cost of some depth, namely the book’s indeterminate setting and flatter background characters. More heartfelt than scary, the story reads well, although some readers may baulk at the tragic ending. The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is recommended for nine- or 10-year-olds who enjoy vintage stories such as The Secret Garden with a hint of Casper.
Annie Waters sells books, writes about books and podcasts about books.