The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn, Kate Gordon (author), Rachel Tribout (illus.), UQP, September 2020.
From the publisher:
A lonely orphan called Wonder Quinn yearns for a friend in this enchanting tale celebrating friendship, bravery and the importance of staying true to yourself.
Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.
So when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to finally be coming true. But as the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart…
What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?
With an evocative setting, wonderful characters you can’t help but fall in love with, and a surprising twist at the end, The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is a story for young readers to treasure and hold dear for years to come.
Honestly. This book holds the weight of the universe in its ability to pierce the soul with so much love, emotion, and purity. This book is heartbreakingly beautiful. Yes, that’s a thing. Even weeks after reading The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn, I am still enamoured, and its profound story still stays deep within my heart.
This is a story that will make you shiver, gasp for breath, melts, and breaks your heart into a million pieces. Hey, even Kate’s acknowledgements at the end brought a tear to my eye. But not for sadness. Rather, the sheer beauty. Of the language, of the friendship between two girls, of the love one has for her long-lost mother.
Kate Gordon has divinely captured the very essence of life and death and all the beauty in between with her story of a powerful friendship and bravery, and finding the golden glow that exists within us all. Wonder Quinn is a wondrous gift so easily loveable, and relatable, for her sense to fade into the background until someone ‘sees’ her, really sees her, and loves her for who she is. And for that someone to touch her very core and bring her spirit to life. But I loved Mabel, too. Opposite on the spectrum of light; full of colour and vibrancy, this tiny, fiery red-haired pocket rocket ironically full of life, yet fading at the same time.
The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is a charming, hopeful, absolutely magical tale that will be grasped tightly amongst junior readers for its capturing of the beautiful bond between protagonists, and its steady-trickle rush of suspense that keeps teasing until the end, a bit like Wonder’s loyal crow counterpart. But it’s also so much more. For not-so-young readers like myself, who would, and will, so easily read this book over and over again to relinquish once more how strong and weak and loved and ‘seen’ it made us feel.
With Gordon’s lilting language and the enchantingly magical illustrations by Rachel Tribout, the spirit that runs through this gorgeous piece of literature is like a liquid gold that sings straight to your heart. Highly, highly recommended.
Review by Romi Sharp.
*Special thanks to UQP for providing a copy of this book, with an accompanying crow feather, in exchange for an honest review.
We LOVE that Kate Gordon has taken the time to talk about her gorgeous story, The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn, and why it is one so special in her heart. Thanks, Kate! 🙂 xx
The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is a story that has been kept close to your heart for a little while now. What can you tell us about its journey?
I grew up on the North-West coast of Tassie, and now live in Hobart (the South-East). We still have family and friends up on the coast, and spend many hours in the car, travelling through the region of Tasmania known imaginatively as “The Midlands”. For years, on those long trips, I have stared out the window and imagined gothic stories set on those wide, ghostly, beautiful expanses. Every so often, journeying through the Midlands, you pass isolated historic buildings – either intact or in ruins. I would imagine these buildings as they were in their heyday and one day, passing a ruin that was once a school, I imagined a girl sitting on the roof, a crow by her side. The first line came into my head and I knew I had to tell her story. It took a while for her to come into the world – five years, in fact! But she’s here now.
This is such an exquisitely written, heart-melting and richly thought-provoking story. What does this book mean to you?
Oh, my. Thank you! This book means the absolute world to me. I feel like it really represents who I am and the message I want to convey with my writing. I love all of my other books with my whole heart, but I feel like I have spent years journeying to the place I am now, as a writer. I no longer feel like there are ways I should be writing and now I just write my heart. Maybe it’s a bit emotional, a bit earnest, but that’s who I am, too.
Wonder and Mabel are almost opposing personalities, but mesh so beautifully and support one another in the most surprising of ways. How did you approach the development of these characters and their ‘infinite’ friendship?
I very much wanted to avoid the trope of the “manic pixie dream girl” but the reality is that people do come into your life and fundamentally change it – and a lot of this story is about the transformative power of love. Mabel changes Wonder’s life just as much as Wonder changes Mabel’s. Sometimes, people come into our lives for a short amount of time and sometimes they come into it forever, and both kinds of friendship can be infinite. I liked the idea of Wonder and Mabel’s friendship being only for a season and forever, too.
Do you see yourself in either of your main protagonists? How?
Oh, I’m 100% Wonder. I’m shy and emotional and have no ability to hide my emotions. I have a deep need to be loved and seen – I think that’s why so many of us write. To be seen. And I feel like I spend my life searching for the thing that will make everything make sense, just like Wonder does.
The visual imagery of Direleafe Hall is stunningly clear and perfectly haunting. Is the old building based on any in real life? Where did the name come from?
The building is based on an old school called Horton College, which is just near Ross in Tasmania. Only the doorway of it still stands and it’s a fascinating sight! And the name popped into my head straight away, along with Wonder’s – I thought of moors and forbidding landscapes and spiky plants, and Direleafe Hall just came to me.
Your book contains enchanting themes of ‘the other world’, a sense of feeling loved and belonging, but at the same time a sorrowful feeling of loss. What would you like your audience to glean from reading ‘Wonder Quinn’?
I feel like, at its heart, Wonder Quinn is a story of hope. There is hope for everyone, even if their lives have been dark. Love and hope, even in the face of loss and pain, are what carry us through. We will all, hopefully, find our place to belong, and people to belong with, and then life will make sense.
I think the illustrations are so eerily beautiful! What are your thoughts on Rachel Tribout’s illustrations?
I have been such an enormous fan of Rachel’s for so many years – my daughter and I were low-key obsessed with her Monsters of Tasmania books and I’ve kept up with her career since then. When I found out she’d been asked to illustrate Wonder Quinn, my jaw hit the floor. UQP had no idea of the level of my fandom and I think they were a bit taken aback by my intense enthusiasm! And Rachel has done exactly what I knew she could – she captured Wonder exactly as she was in my mind. She’s a genius.
What is favourite thing about ‘Wonder Quinn’?
Its heart. It’s a book that wears its heart (and mine) on its sleeve and speaks to my beliefs about life and our responsibilities to each other, to be kind and look after each other, particularly when life gets hard.
Thanks so much, Kate! A pleasure, as always! 😊
The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is available for purchase at UQP | Booktopia
Kate Gordon grew up in a very bookish house, in a small town by the sea in Tasmania. In 2009, she won a Varuna fellowship. Kate’s first book, Three Things About Daisy Blue, was published in 2010. Since then she has published a number of books. Her most recent publications are the young adult novel Girl Running, Boy Falling and the younger reader series Juno Jones: Word Ninja. Kate’s next book is The Ballad of Elodie Rose and will be published in 2021 with UQP.
3 thoughts on “#BookReview and Interview: The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon”
Really looking forward to reading this book. Great review and interview too.
Thanks, Verity! I’m sure you’ll love it! 🙂 x
This book sounds absolutely Wonderful. I love the title and the cover and everything you have said about it. It’s on my TBR list.