'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 4 March 2013

Review: What the Raven Saw

‘Some birds are made for greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them. The raven was of both kinds, which meant his capacity for greatness was huge.’

The raven doesn’t want you to read this story. What if you find his treasure? What if you learn his secret? What if you expect him to listen to your endless chattering when it’s obvious that a bird of his standing has much, much better ways to occupy his time?

In the quiet churchyard, the raven watches the comings and goings of everyone, making sure that peace and order are maintained. He keeps to himself, except during church services, when he sneaks into the building so that he can listen to the glorious hymns that he loves. The raven would be happy if everything stayed this way forever.

Despite the raven and his wishes, things do change. The tragic death of a young boy means a new grave in the small graveyard, a new ghost for the raven to manage, and the boy’s distraught sister visiting and disturbing the peace with her emotional outbursts. Then there is the annoying pigeon that just won’t go away and is that one of the church members up to no good?

What will the raven do? Will he risk revealing his secret and losing his treasure to bring peace and order to his churchyard once again?

What the Raven Saw is the fable-like debut novel from Australian author Samantha-Ellen Bound. With its unusual cast of characters, it is refreshingly different and an interesting perspective on the themes of friendship, loneliness and belonging that are common in many novels for children and tweens.

I love the raven, with his grand image of himself as a noble and superior protector of the peace, above consorting with the common riff-raff yet with a secret longing to help and connect with others. I love the silly pigeon spouting random quotes from songs and literature and I love the scarecrow with his endearingly muddled speech.

While the interactions between the raven, pigeon and the creaking weathervane hen are rife with humour, there is also a very strong emotional element to the novel, particularly evident in the story of the young boy Todd and his grieving sister. The scarecrow’s story and the experiences of the raven himself are also quite touching and themes of friendship, connection, love, loss and belonging make this a very thoughtful, as well as humorous, novel.

There are teachers’ resources for What the Raven Saw available from Random House. With its ultimately uplifting message and unusual storyline, this novel is sure to appeal to tweens and younger readers who enjoy stories with deeper themes and ideas.

Title: What the Raven Saw
Author: Samantha-Ellen Bound
Publisher: Random House, $16.95 RRP
Publication Date: 1 February 2013
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781742757353
For ages: 10 - 14 years
Type: Older junior fiction