Nightingale's Nest

( 1 )


A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia

Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or “Little John” as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the ...

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Nightingale's Nest

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A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia

Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or “Little John” as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.

There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.

But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.

Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale's Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Drawing from the Hans Christian Andersen story The Nightingale, Loftin (The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy) contrasts the uplifting friendship between 12-year-old narrator Little John and an otherworldly foster child with the oppressive poverty of a Texas setting and the burdens of grief. Still reeling from the death of his sister, Little John helps his landscaper father on the property of the richest and most powerful man in town, the Emperor. While working there, Little John befriends Gayle, who builds a nest in a tree and whose enchanting voice possesses healing powers and makes her an object of the Emperor's sinister interest. The elements of magical realism are not as potent as the stark descriptions of Little John's difficult life, including his family's precarious economic situation, Little John's estrangement from his former best friend, his mother's tenuous grasp on reality, and his father's drinking problem. Yet the intensity of Little John's predicament as the Emperor enlists his help to capture Gayle's voice offers menacing and memorable tension. Ages 8–12. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3–6—Pulling readers in from the very first page, Loftin's novel shares the enchanting quality of the Andersen fairy tale that inspired it. Packed with serious subjects (child abuse, mental illness, death, and poverty), it is also the story of forgiveness, healing, and friendship. Little John is only 12, but he bears the burdens of the death of his sister, his mother's ensuing breaks with reality, his father's drinking, and the family's dire financial situation. His life is brightened after a chance encounter with Gayle, a young girl with the voice of a nightingale. Along with her magically beautiful and healing voice, Gayle brings problems of her own to add to Little John's load. Forced to sacrifice his new friend in order to help his desperate family, Little John is full of despair and self-loathing. How he resolves this and comes to terms with all of his relationships comprise the remainder of the story. The setting is vivid and readers will feel the oppressive summer heat as the protagonist engages in back-breaking work alongside his father. The plot rolls along at a consistent pace and there is enough suspense to keep readers turning pages. It is Loftin's skill in depicting both the human and the arboreal characters that will engage and inspire readers. The lyrical, descriptive prose and the hopeful ending will linger long after the final chapter.—Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-11-27
A kindhearted Texas boy finds his life transformed by an enigmatic girl whose singing has the power to heal in this novel-length spin on Andersen's "The Nightingale." Twelve-year-old "Little" John's father works for the "Emperor," the wealthy owner of a chain of dollar stores. John grieves for his little sister, who was killed when she fell from a tree, and blames himself for not catching her. His financially strapped father drinks too much, and his mother's depressed. Clearing brush near the Emperor's house, John hears magical singing that "seep[s] right through" him like "a honey-soft river of sound." Unsure if it's a bird or a girl, he discovers a fragile, ethereal, birdlike 8-year-old girl named Gayle perched in a sycamore tree. John instinctively wants to protect Gayle from her foster mother, from her precarious living conditions (a twig nest) and from the Emperor, who offers John $500 to convince her to sing for him so he can record her perfect voice. To help his parents, John betrays Gayle with nearly disastrous results. John narrates his story in fluid, lyrical prose, Loftin blending the raw realism of a boy who makes the wrong choice with the fairy-tale magic of a girl with a nightingale voice. Unusual, finely crafted story of loss, betrayal and healing. (Magical realism. 8-12)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595145468
  • Publisher: Razorbill
  • Publication date: 2/20/2014
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 359,064
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 630L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Nikki Loftin lives and writes just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. She is also the author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, which Publishers Weekly called “mesmerizing” and Kirkus called “irresistible.” You can visit her online at

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 4, 2014

    So many aches, wants, and needs can leave us broken, even as chi

    So many aches, wants, and needs can leave us broken, even as children--but Ms. Loftin's gorgeous prose has the potential to sing it all better, just like Gayle does for those around her. This is a lovely story of heartbreak, regret, and forgiveness. 

    The bonds of friendship and family (and even enemies) are explored with emotional honesty. The magical realism element is expertly wrought and infuses a sense of deep anticipatory hope that lingers long after the story ends. Whether a young reader has experienced heartache, or encounters it for the first time in the story, the underlying message throughout is one of hope and perseverance that lifts up, rather than depresses. 

    Beautiful story beautifully told. 

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