Tanya Landman is best known for her fiction – pithy murder mysteries, hearty middle grade adventures and full throttle YA novels. She doesn’t do cosy or comforting, she does earthy and direct. She looks her readers in the eye and challenges them to keep up.
This lyrical and witty story inspired by a well-known creation fable is gentler, but Landman’s forthright narrative challenge remains at its heart. The invitation to pull up a seat, to revel in the spectacle. And what a spectacle!
The God of the original fable is recast as ‘the painter’. She has a strong work ethic, and there’s a great deal to be done if she’s going to add colour to the animal kingdom, so she briskly organises her subjects and opens her paintbox. Which is where ‘the painter’ of this gorgeous book plays her part. Illustrator and ceramicist Laura Carlin’s subtle march of animals – grey, drab and tentative until their extraordinary transformation – is packed with incident and possibility. There’s comedy – the parrots and mandrill are the architects of their own colour schemes – but there’s also breath-taking drama. (Take a bow, Laura and the designer of the blue whale double-page spread.) The pacing of both text and artwork is perfect, respectful of both the original fable and the real natural world to which it relates. This is the kind of book that will establish a profound connection with its readers on first acquaintance and that alchemy will last. Your copy of The Song of the Nightingale will move house with you.
Tanya Landman describes the creation of The Song of the Nightingale.