Grayling’s Song : Karen Cushman

Book review for : Grayling’s Song
Author : Karen Cushman
Rating : 4 stars

Growing up with magic and a mouse

I remember enjoying Midwife’s Apprentice, Catherine Called Birdy, and The Ballad of Lucy Whipple when I was about 8-10 years old, so when I saw this new book by Karen Cushman—and a fantasy!—I was excited to try it. I know my child self would have LOVED this book.

Grayling is the daughter of a wise woman, and she helps her mother by gathering herbs and tending the garden and overall seems unsatisfied with her life, but making no effort to change it. Change is forced upon Grayling when a spell burns down their cottage and sets her mother rooted to the ground—she is slowly changing into a tree. To make it worse, her mother’s grimoire, or book of spells, has gone missing. Grayling thinks her mother should fix everything, but her mother tells her SHE has to do it instead!

Grayling is afraid, unmotivated, and convinced of her own helplessness when she sets off on a journey with only her mother’s songs and a few jars that survived the fire. Those jars don’t even last when a mouse eats the contents and turns into a shape-shifting, talking, loyally-bound mouse she names Pook.

Using the songs she learned from her mother, Grayling gathers a group of ragtag ‘cunning folk’ to help her find the grimoire and save not only her mother but the other folk who’ve had their books of spells stolen along with their mobility.

Grayling’s Song is a historical fantasy, filled with magic, and the author includes some notes at the end explaining hedge witches, magic, and divination, but most of all it’s a book about character.

Grayling grows immensely in the short space of the book, and I much liked her development. I think any young person will be able to relate to her, cheer her on, and feel just a little sad when she’s not a dependent child anymore.

Although the arch of this book concludes satisfactorily, it’s left wide open for a sequel. I don’t know if it’s a sequel the author will write, or a sequel the reader writes in their head in the contemplative moments after closing the book.


Originally reviewed on Amazon in 2016. I did receive a copy of the book mostly-free in exchange for a review, and I was so glad I was able to! It had never occurred to me to go back to any childhood favorite-books and see if the authors had written more. I don’t think I would have come across this book otherwise, so I am grateful for that!


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