The Song From Somewhere Else by A.F. Harrold
Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Summary from Goodreads:
Frank thought her summer couldn’t get any worse–until big, weird, smelly Nick Underbridge rescues her from a bully, and she winds up at his house.
Frank quickly realizes there’s more to Nick than meets the eye. When she’s at his house, she hears the strangest, most beautiful music, music which leads her to a mysterious, hidden door. Beyond the door are amazing creatures that she never even dreamed could be real. For the first time in forever, Frank feels happy . . . and she and Nick start to become friends.
But Nick’s incredible secrets are also accompanied by great danger. Frank must figure out how to help her new friend, the same way that he has helped her.
Paired with gorgeous black-and-white illustrations from Levi Pinfold, acclaimed author A. F. Harrold weaves a powerful story about unlikely friendship, strange magic, and keeping the shadows at bay.
I found this book through the Goodread’s mock Newbery group. Someone had suggested it as a possible winner, but then it was pointed out that the author doesn’t live in the US (one of the criteria for a book to win). But I decided to read it anyway because it sounded like a wonderful book. I am very sorry that it is not eligible for the Newbery Award because if it was I think it would have a good choice of winning.
This is book about finding friendship in unlikely places, and finding the magic even when it tries to hide from you. The magic in this story isn’t your typical spells and wand swishing though. The magic is through a bumping up of our world with an alternate world that holds strange creatures and music. There is also some scary creatures that want to enter our world which adds a touch of horror to the story, but that just adds to wonderfulness of this story.
I really enjoyed Frank, I really liked that she didn’t go by Frankie, she is a very conflicted young lady who is still trying to figure out her place in the world. She is at times timid and shy and under stress has a stutter, but she finds her inner strength by the end of this book. Her reluctance to become friends with Nick is an interesting dialogue, but typical of what most kids would think. She mostly worries about how her friends will perceive her if she becomes his friend, which is what most kids her age worry about. I loved that her inner conscience was her stomach talking to her. It sometimes added just the right note of humor into a scary situation.
Nick was an amazing character as well. Even though he is huge he is gentle and kind. I liked his relationship with his dad, it was easy going and fun. It was also nice to see him reach out to Frank and try to help her when she was being bullied. You could see that he was struggling with how to be a friend to her as well, mostly because he had never had a friend before. Even when Frank discovers his secret he still is able to share it with her and make her understand its importance. His heartbreak at the end was touching but also made him and Frank stronger.
It is a shame that more middle grade books are not illustrated. That is something that has been lost over the years and it is something I miss. This book is beautifully illustrated and they really add to the story without overpowering it.
This book is going to the top of my must buy books for my school’s library this fall, along with his other middle-grade book The Imaginary. This book has just the right mix of realism and magic with a twist of scary that will capture any kid’s imagination.