When I began Nikki Loftin’s Nightingale’s Nest it was with fear and trepidation because I’d listened to Nikki in person tell the story of how this book came to be written. She called it a story very close to her heart, one that had to be written. I also had heard rumors that it might be a story about abuse. So I was scared to read it because frankly, I don’t like stories about abuse.
Well, I was right and I was wrong. Nightingale’s Nest is about abuse, but it isn’t the kind of story you would expect. Nope, it is so much more. It’s beautiful for one thing, and usually stories about abuse aren’t beautiful.
It made me cry. You know I’m such a sucker for stories that make me cry. But it also left me feeling full of joy at the end. (Okay, now I’m crying again.) It’s true, and that’s down to the talent of Nikki Loftin that she can write a Middle-grade novel that made me laugh and cry.
Nightingale’s Nest is about a boy who is big and tall for his age, and a girl who is much too small for her age. The girl likes to climb trees. She’s built a nest, but that isn’t her special talent. Her special talent is singing. And she’s waiting for her parents, certain they are looking for her. The boy isn’t so sure. There’s trouble in both of these children’s lives. The way their lives criss-cross and touch other lives is what the story is about. It is timeless and timely. I recommend it for all ages because though kids as young as nine could read this book, and get what it is about, an adult reading it might find deeper layers of meaning.
Another wonderful middle-grade book that should not be passed up by adults is Gary D. Schmidt’s Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. There are layers in this story, too. One layer is that it is historical fiction. The island off the coast of Maine where the black inhabitants were chased away to make room for a hotel does exist and the story did happen. The author simply added more layers with a story about a minister’s son and his friendship with one of the island’s inhabitants, a little black girl. It’s told in the first person with a voice that resonates. The things that happen in the town, with the folks who make up the inhabitants who are both fearful and greedy. The one fine old lady who I thought wasn’t very nice but who turns out to be wonderful, the bad guy who took up an entire room with his presence, the grandpa who loved clam chowder, all these people were drawn so well, I felt I knew them through and through by the end of the story.