Recommended for ages 9-12
Grayling’s mother – a local “wise woman” whose remedies and healing songs are popular in their village – is in trouble, and only Grayling can help her. Their home has been upended, her potions and herbs scattered, her grimoire (spell book) stolen… and she’s turning into a tree. Teaching Grayling a song to sing that the grimoire will respond to, she sends Grayling off in search of other wise women to bring help. As Grayling sets out, she’s accompanied by a mouse who’s eaten some of her mother’s potions and discovers he can talk and shape-shift! She names the mouse Pook and goes on her way. Grayling meets other witches in what becomes a coming-of-age quest, including a weather witch and her surly apprentice, an enchantress, and a soothsayer who uses cheese to perform his magic.
Grayling’s song was a little lukewarm, as middle grade fantasy goes. It didn’t have the “bigness” of a quest novel, and it was missing the introspection of a coming-of-age novel. More often than not, the adventure consisted of Grayling being annoyed at the company she kept, and the entire company dissolving into bickering and wandering around, hoping to find the grimoire. There are some humorous moments and the book’s pace moves along nicely, but overall, this wasn’t my book.
Karen Cushman received a Newbery Medal for The Midwife’s Apprentice and Newbery Honors for Catherine, Called Birdy. Her author website offers a full bibliography, an author biography, FAQ, and “odd facts”.