As we open submissions for the 2015 Writers’ League of Texas Book Awards, we’re still celebrating our 2014 honorees. This year, in addition to our toast at the Texas Book Festival, we’re honoring this year’s winners with a special review written by a Writers’ League member.
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin was this year’s winner in the Middle Grade/Young Adult category.
By Nikki Loftin
Published in 2014 by Razorbill.
Reviewed by K.L. Romo.
A twelve-year-old boy who is barely surviving the emotional trauma caused by his little sister’s death. A mistreated ten-year-old foster girl who optimistically waits for the return of her parents. In Nightingale’s Nest, Nikki Loftin tells an enchanting story about tragedy, purpose, and the hopeful belief of a better life to come.
Little John Fischer hates trees – all trees. As he sees it, they were the source of his family’s misfortune. His father’s business specializes in tree-cutting, and Little John is more than happy to help him chain-saw every single one. During summer break, Little John helps his Dad with the tree-trimming at the town “rich-man’s” property, and is lured next door by a beautiful melody riding the breeze. He’s surprised to find a girl in the big sycamore tree next door, hidden in a nest she’s made from her treasures. She calls herself Gayle, and insists she is a Nightingale, and her parents are birds who flew away, but will one day return for her.
Gayle’s singing is more beautiful that anything Little John has ever heard. And she insists that she has a special gift – she can sing things better. But how is that possible? Little John wonders.
“Even if it wasn’t true, I wanted to believe it for a while. The idea of it felt like a sunbeam had found its way into my usual dark thoughts and was splashing light all over the walls of my memories.”
In this beautifully written tale filled with both harsh reality and entrancing magic, Nikki Loftin captures what it’s like to be a young teen trying to cope with a world that hasn’t been kind. Loftin’s first-person prose skillfully portrays the voice of a boy traveling between childhood and manhood, trying valiantly to cope with tragedy, and take care of those he loves.
Little John’s guilt from not doing more to take care of his family compels him to protect Gayle, even at the cost of the family’s rent money. But his efforts take a toll.
“…I didn’t have any fight left. I felt like I’d already been beaten, over and over, with a stick the size of the whole world.”
In Nightingale’s Nest, Little John Fischer knows what it means to become an adult in an unfair world. But in the end, he learns that hopeful belief in a better life, with maybe a little magic along the way, will see you through.
I highly recommend this book to readers who want to be transported to the life of a twelve-year-old boy, to wrap themselves in his struggles and fears, and to relish the simple, yet lyrical prose written with artistry and grace.
Beautiful, like a nightingale’s song.
K.L. Romo is a member of the Writers’ Leagues of Texas who lives with her family in Duncanville, Texas. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her novel – From Grace I Fall – about a modern woman who’s suddenly transported back to 1907 Dallas, seeing the world through the eyes of a reformed prostitute who’s determined to seek justice for victims of human trafficking, and other women forced to sell their bodies. You can visit her website for more information.