Title: The Song of Lewis Carmichael
Author: Sofie Laguna, illustrated by Marc McBride
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 31st August 2021
Synopsis: A beautiful, illustrated adventure story with a classic feel, about a quiet boy and a talking crow on an extraordinary hot-air balloon ride to the Arctic.
Matthew stood on the snowy peak and stared out at the world spread before him. Every picture in his books had been limited by the size of the page, contained within frames. Here, there was no frame. Here, the picture didn’t end. Beyond those icy plains, the sea, and beyond the sea, a land that floated on the ice, drifting northwards. Matthew put the binoculars to his eyes and saw valleys and cliffs and rivers all made of snow. Everywhere was white.
Matthew has dreamed and read and thought about the North Pole for as long as he can remember. And he has done it secretly. It is a place that cannot be tarnished by the world in which he lives – a world in which he struggles to find answers and make friends, while everything seems to come easily to other children.
But one day, a crow called Lewis Carmichael lands at Matthew’s window – a crow who believes in Matthew in the most simple and ordinary ways. Soon, the unexpected voyage of a lifetime begins, and it will change everything…
An unforgettable adventure story from award-winning children’s book author Sofie Laguna, with enchanting illustrations by Marc McBride.
Matthew is stuck at home, listening to his parents talk about him in whispers as he dreams about the North Pole. So when a crow named Lewis Carmichael appears at his window to whisk him off an adventure to the North Pole to find an Arctic Fox, Matthew doesn’t hesitate, and what follows is a beautiful story that takes us from a bedroom, to a balloon that carries the, to the North Pole. The new adventure sees Matthew meet all kinds of arctic animals such as polar bears, encounter snow, and fall into the isolated and cold world of the North Pole.
What follows is a gentle yet exciting adventure that brings a remote area such as the North Pole to life. To children, the North Pole is the land of Santa and his workshop, yet this new book beautifully captures the stark, isolated reality of the North Pole and creates a magical adventure for all readers. This book shows that quiet children are adventurous in their own way – that just because they’re cautious or feel like they need to be cautious based on the messages they pick up from those around them. This can give a sense of reassurance to readers of all ages that anxiety about life and certain things is normal because we all experience anxiety of some kind in our lives. This powerful message is reassuring especially in these uncertain COVID times as people of all ages are trying to navigate anxiety and uncertainty about what is going on in their lives.
Matthew is protected by his parents, and his quest inspires him to do something to help his parents stop worrying about him – which shows how intuitive and sensitive he is. I liked that we do not know exactly why his parents worry so much – working on his physical strength is mentioned, yet by not being specific, Sofie has allowed readers of all ages and backgrounds to imagine what the reason might be, and this suggests that it could be anything from illness to his parents just being worrisome all the time.
Blue covers are popular and eye-catching, but this book is exquisite within as well. The text is blue, and Sofie’s husband, Marc McBride, has created beautiful illustrations in tones of blue to match, and make the book feel arctic as it is read. It certainly feels arctic as you read it and are fully immersed in the world of the North Pole as Matthew goes on his adventure with Lewis Carmichael, meeting all the animals he has read about: reindeer, polar bears, the Arctic Fox. Yet there is something more to discover on the journey, and it is dealt with in a touching and sensitive way that will enthral readers.
It is one of those books that has a timelessness about it that I’m seeing a lot of these days, particularly in books for younger readers. This trend is nice, as it doesn’t pin the story into any set time or place, and they aren’t constrained by technology or anything that might date the book too soon. We need more books like this, across all readerships. I love historical fiction, and crime and it can be nice to have certainty knowing about the setting, time and place you’re reading about. Yet I would like to see how a sense of timelessness would manifest itself in something like young adult or adult books – even fantasy can have a sense of time and place, as they often have a medieval type setting or are portal stories that begin in our contemporary world – and there can be reminders of this throughout. A balance of all these different kinds of stories is lovely – and maybe there is a reason it is more common in books for kids. I’d be interested to know.
Another beautiful story for readers aged eight and older – something that we can all enjoy regardless of how old we are.