By Nikki Loftin
Published 2014 by Razorbill
Little John is helping his father with his business when he hears a beautiful song. Imagine his surprise when what he thinks is a bird turns out to be a little girl, one who grows attached to him almost immediately. Soon, though, Little John will find himself caught up in a situation that may be harmful to Gayle but will help his family. What decision will he make?
I pulled this one out of Mt. TBR for the recent 48-Hour Book Challenge. I chose it because our challenge theme was diverse books and Gayle is pictured on the cover with brown skin (and briefly described in the text this way as well). I also chose it because I knew it had received many positive reviews and had even been thrown around in early Newbery contender talks.
Sometimes I feel like I read different books than everyone else. This is one of those times. I won't deny that this book is well-written and that Loftin has done an admirable job of creating an interesting and complex story for middle-grader readers. But I didn't really find this book enjoyable at all. For me, it was a slow and boring read, one with which I never truly engaged or connected. I can't put my finger on exactly why this is, but this just wasn't a book for me. I found Little John to be kind of a pathetic character. I can understand his desire to try to solve all the problems that arise on his own, but there comes a point when this begins to just feel tiresome to me. If he had only talked to his parents about some of the occurrences of the novel, perhaps some tragedies could have been averted. Additionally, this is inspired by a Hans Christian Anderson story but I didn't get the fairy-tale vibe that I love. Perhaps this was just my personal expectations, but I was disappointed nevertheless.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.