Annie and her mother are moving, leaving their comfortable little house for a drab flat. Life has not been the same since the accident; the car crash that has left Annie with a scarred arm and fingers that do not want to work. And it was Mum who had been driving the car. Before, Anna’s world was full of music – the music she could hear all around her, the music she could create for herself on the flute. Now it has all gone and with it the ambition to apply for that prestigious music school. It is easier not to try – indeed as Noah, the boy who is befriending a pair of nesting blackbirds, says, ‘It is always easier not to try’. But is that the answer? Has Anna’s life with music really come to an end?
Designed for young people who have a reading age around 8 this is an attractive package. The font is clear – and as is the policy of the publisher, dyslexia friendly, the chapters are short, the plot moves easily, the vocabulary sophisticated without being abstruse or difficult. Here there is no talking down to the audience. Annie is a believable girl whose reactions to her situation is understandable, natural, but she is also a young person who relates to the world through her music and who has talent – something that is not treated as extraordinary but to be nurtured and treasured. The story itself, though firmly rooted in the contemporary world, has the satisfying feel of the fairy tale – indeed there is a hint of The Secret Garden both through the character of Noah and the central theme around the healing to be found through the natural world. As is to be expected, descriptive passages are few, dialogue, action and feelings immediate. However, the author ensures that music is central to her narrative through a conscious choice of language that references sound in a way that is unforced and appropriate. This is an excellent example of a narrative that is accessible to a wide age range without sacrificing characterisation or emotional appeal, engaging the young reader and encouraging empathy and sympathy.