The Song of Lewis Carmichael (Sofie Laguna, illus by Marc McBride, A&U)
Lyrical, mesmerising and full of heart, The Song of Lewis Carmichael by Sofie Laguna, complemented by the soft, detailed pencil drawings of Marc McBride, is a beautiful middle-grade adventure story for children aged nine and up. Matthew, a neurodivergent child, feels like he can’t meet the expectations of his parents, his teachers or his peers. As he listens to his parents arguing about him, Matthew immerses himself in stories of the Arctic, somewhere ‘full of space, secret and wild’. It’s his own obsession, a safe and restful space for his mind. This dream becomes a reality when a talking crow named Lewis Carmichael takes Matthew on an adventure to the North Pole, complete with a trunk full of child-sized supplies and an easily operable hot air balloon. This segment of the narrative feels reminiscent of an Enid Blyton story, full of delight and problems that are surmountable through determination and creativity. In the Arctic itself, however, things are both more magical and more dangerous. The short chapters allow the story to speed along while the detailed, careful illustrations match the tone. Matthew’s internal world is vividly rendered, and Laguna uses a naivety of voice to capture his thought process, making sense of the things that make him seem different from the outside. The Song of Lewis Carmichael is a beautiful and compassionate story that will resonate with any child who has a strong sense of wonder.
Fay Helfenbaum is a freelance writer and editor and was a bookseller for five years.