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The Song from Somewhere Else ISBN: 9781408884751
Harrold, A.F. and Pinfold, Levi
Published by Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2017
Nicholas Underbridge really is different. Tall - very tall and broad but not fat - with a large flat face, he doesn't look like anyone else in Francesca's class at school, and no one wants to have anything to do with him. They call him 'stinky' and say he has fleas, and he is bullied incessantly. But when he rescues Frank from the worst of the bullies, Neil Noble and his two chums, she is horrified to find herself racing back to Nick's house to get away from them. She finds there a perfectly normal dad who welcomes her in, and while they have squash and biscuits, she begins to hear wonderful, unearthly music coming from somewhere nearby. It's like nothing else she has ever heard, and she is attracted to it in a strange way. While she is still worried about what her school friends will think about her knowing Nick, she is also drawn to him and keeps going back to his home. While there, she discovers that the music comes from the basement, and sneaking downstairs, which she knows to be wrong, she finds a normal basement with lots of stuff, but also a mystical being, seen through a haze, who is composing the music - an extremely large woman, who has an amazing resemblance to Nick. This, it develops, is Nick's mother, who is from a parallel world, and in this house there is an opening into that world - an opening no one must suspect because there are those who will take advantage of it with horrible results. Nick has inadvertently been left on the real world side as a baby and been brought up by his dad who found him there. He can only sit on the steps and watch as his mother composes her haunting music. In a remarkable and spine-tingling climax, Frank and Nick, now close friends, defeat the powers of darkness, while the bullies get their comeuppance in a big way. These bullies are very realistic, particularly nasty Neil, who is obsessed with Frank and never lets her forget it. Nick must give up even being able to see his mum in the basement because the door to the other world has been closed permanently, but he is determined to find her again somehow in the end. Frank's cat, Quintilius Minimus, comes into the story too, and as it is told from Frank's point of view, we see her frequently talking to her own stomach as she goes from fear to fear and her stomach reacts accordingly. This is a stunning book, full of both realism and fantasy, and the empathy that builds between Frank and Nick makes it possible for her to admit her friendship to her classmates. There is betrayal too, as there always must be in such stories, but the betrayal is worked through and forgiven. Pinfold's illustrations are magical and beautiful - soft greys, blacks and whites. Read it!
Age: 9+