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.
“Cushman crafts these characters with humor and humanity, avoiding caricature while giving each a distinctive personality. Unfortunately, none of her companions seems to know much more than Grayling about what evil is abroad or how to combat it. The plot unwinds smoothly as the group experiences setbacks and danger while traveling through a clearly limned, seemingly medieval, and presumptively all-white kingdom. The eventual revelation of just who unleashed the destructive power manages to be simultaneously unexpected, plausible, and thought-provoking. Despite her self-doubt, Grayling is cut from the same cloth as the author’s other sturdy heroines, but she is also an entirely original and endearing character that readers will cheer on as she seeks to save her mother and return her world to rights.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
“Like all Karen Cushman’s gorgeous novels, Grayling’s Song delves into the past to let us know what we must ask of our future. I want Cushman’s books to raise my children for me: that way I can be assured they’ll grow up witty, vastly knowledgeable, and tough as nails.” (Lena Dunham)
“The language gives the book the atmospheric flavor of historical fiction, and the land itself is wild and mysterious, exactly the type of place where magic could happen, children could wander around trying to fix the world, and tiny mice could shapeshift into mighty protectors if fed the right potion. Cushman offers a complete story with clear resolutions, a memorably complex villain, and a sweet protagonist who becomes far more than background by the end; fantasy buffs and Cushman fans alike will be well pleased.” (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“Readers will revel in Cushman’s atmospheric, witty tale of Grayling’s risky and rambling rescue mission across the countryside that ultimately transforms her from a cowed, timid girl to a healer and leader who discovers her own powers.” (Karin Snelson, Shelf Awareness)
“Grayling’s mother, a healer and wise woman, is turning into a tree, and Grayling is the only one who can save her. It all started when a shadow attacked and burned their cottage, stole their grimoire, and rooted her mother into the ground. Sent with only a basket of spells and her mother’s powerful songs, Grayling must find a way to stop the shadow. Rich in details that bring to life the magical woodland setting, Cushman’s latest novel is full of adventure and clever characters. Readers are also introduced to memorable secondary characters, including a shape-shifting mouse, a radiant enchantress, and a wizard who uses cheese to tell the future, each of whom finds their way to Grayling through her enchanted song. Verdict: Young fans of magic will revel in delving into this new world with its cast of unique characters.” (School Library Journal, Kris Hickey, Columbus Metropolitan Library, OH)
“Cushman’s simple narrative line of one mishap after another is enlivened by her customary down-to-earth, often comic language (‘Oh, rats and rabbit droppings!’ exclaims Grayling); and by her opinionated cast of characters.” (Dierdre Baker, The Horn Book)
“Throughout the course of the narrative, Grayling evolves from a somewhat insecure and timid girl to a bold and decisive young woman. … Karen Cushman’s books tend to have strong female protagonists who project a certain wisdom and realism about meeting life’s challenges.” (Emma Cassell, BookSource, “An Author Study on Wisdom, Wit, and Words”)
“There were things I loved about [Grayling’s Song]: Pook, and his spontaneous, (occasionally) opportune shape-shifts; the eerie terror of people slowly planted where they stand; Cushman’s prose, which like all the best writing takes a few simple words and contorts them into something new and amazing.” (Lauren Oliver, The New York Times Book Review)
“Readers who love taking their time to explore sometimes creepy, sometimes wonderfully magical fantasy worlds will be charmed. Grayling is one of the most relatable young heroines I’ve read about for ages. Give this one to a daydreamy nine or ten year old, who could use a bit of inspiration to set off with courage on their own perilous journey through adolescence!” (BNKids Blog)