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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  154 ratings  ·  47 reviews
Somewhere in the Arctic Circle, Sixteen-Face John, a shaman, learns that his first child, a soonchild, cannot hear the World Songs from her mother's womb. The World Songs are what inspire all newborns to come out into the world, and John must find them for her. But how?
Hardcover, 144 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Walker Books
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Candy Wood
Looking at the cover with its pattern of swirling wolves, I wondered why this book was listed as a 14+ in the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize longlist for 2012. Some younger children might like it--on one level it's a traditional hero-quest narrative, where the hero must reluctantly risk his life and even lose his life in a struggle with cosmic forces, and many of those tales are considered suitable for younger children. But the hero, Sixteen-Face John, is an out-of-shape shaman in a very cont ...more
Alex Baugh
From the Publisher:
Somewhere in te Artic Circle, Sixteen-Face John, a shaman, learns that his first child, a soonchild, cannot hear the World Songs from her mother's womb. The World Songs are what inspire all newborns to come out into the world, and John must find them for her. But how? The answer takes him through many lifetimes and many shape-shifts, as well as encounters with beasts, demons and a mysterious benevolent owl spirit, Ukpika, who is linked to John's past...

My Thoughts:
In Soonchild
Sally Ito
Just finished this book, and loved it. Started off dark, as my daughter, put it -- I read the first few paragraphs to her -- but it is after all set in the far North. It's a mythical story of a shaman named John who must embark on a journey to get the world-songs for his soon-be-born daughter, Soonchild, who apparently is unwilling to come out of her mother's womb.

Hoban is an engaging, imaginative writer and this book, published post-humously tackles some of the terrain he explored in Moment Un
Donna Enticknap
i liked this. felt like a dream the whole way through; dream speed, dream logic. and of course, i enjoyed all the animals and spirits, and a mythology i'm unfamiliar with. there were some incredibly beautiful passages, lyrical and magical.

i would have given an extra star, but for the americanisms and modernisms. the mentions of coca cola and television and some of the ways of talking pulled me out of the dream a little. i understand why it's in there, but it made me sad.

also, i only got to read
Soonchild by Hoban - Sixteen-Face John lives in the white north and has been drinking Coca-Cola and watching TV so much that his shaman powers have faded. The Soonchild in his wife’s belly refuses to come out without hearing the World Song so John makes tea from various items in the pouches left by his shaman ancestors and goes on a Dream Trip where Nanuq gives him the Blue-Green Password, Snow Owl asks if anyone wants strangeness and silence anymore and Raven helps him to recover the songs befo ...more
lucy by the sea
I liked the blue pages, the white pages were a bit too spacey and the brownish pages were annoyingly nonsensical.

The blue pages are great though. Russell Hobans characters are very realistic and I like the strong female characters like the protaganists wife and daughter.

I guess it's kindof about the fear of bringing a child into this shit world aye?

Pam Saunders
I wanted to rate this book higher, it is a beautiful package, and deals with big themes, preserving our world, it's spirits, it's children, but it was just a bit slow and rambling for me. For many that will be it's joy.

Anthony Burt
I try my hardest not to be too harsh on the books I review (mainly because I know how much effort goes into creating them and bringing them to market), but with this one I'm going to have to be. Soonchild is a pretentious, soulless and excruciatingly annoying story dressed up as something cosy, quirky, warm and lovely.

It tries it's hardest to be clever - mainly through a language technique of using people's names as blatant metaphors for actions. But that only serves to make it as subtle as a br
get it. read it. it's lovely. and not a little wise.
Mar 04, 2013 Judy rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone over the age of 10
Recommended to Judy by: happy discovery
It's hard to imagine a more outstanding combination of writer and illustrator. Alexis Deacon, whose work I have admired in the past, far exceeded my expectations with his mouthwatering illustrations. Previous work I've seen has been for a younger audience, and this book, with its complex, more mature and mystical themes has given him full opportunity to deliver powerful and imaginative work.

Russell Hoban, whose work I have also enjoyed in the past, but whose writing style I have previously asso
I enjoyed this much more than I did Hoban's most recent novel marketed to adults, Angelica Lost and Found, which seemed forced and creaky. Soonchild is a bit haphazard and draggy in the middle, but I'll say, generously, that that suits its campfire-tale mode -- and that Hoban has some fun with the inherently repetitive nature of a quest story by sending his protagonist into a "time loop" at its most interminable point. The publisher claims this book is for readers age 14+, but I think it might b ...more
Oct 04, 2012 Anna rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Anna by: Guardian prize 2012
Shelves: childrens, classic
One of the shortlisted books for the Guardian Children's Fiction prize 2012, a beautifully written book. Poetic with a wistful meandering storyline, a kind of cross between Winnie the Pooh and Pilgrims Progress made to be read aloud. Sixteen Face John learns to face his past, his identity as a Northern shaman, father, husband and his place in the world as he comes to terms with the impending birth of his daughter Soonchild. Soonchild is reluctant to be born as she cannot hear the world songs whi ...more
Sixteen Face John has a problem; his unborn child, Soonchild, won't come out into the world because she cannot hear the World Songs, so Sixteen Face John must go on a quest to find them. Sixteen Face John gets help in his quest from the spirit world where he meets spirits tied to his past, his present, and the possible future. The book is eerie and very strange, many of the illustrations are downright creepy. Finding out if Sixteen Face John would succeed and just what would he succeed at is wha ...more
A.E. Shaw

A unique and peculiar read. Bought literally by its cover, for it was wrapped closed in cellophane, so I had no idea what it would be about. It's a very tactile read, soft pencil illustrations bringing out the characters and the drama of the narrative in a tone that matches completely. In places, both action and illustrations dive from the pretty and the evocative to the grotesque, and even the frightening, but it's a worthwhile read all the same.

It's a big story and a small story and somewhere
I found a cheap copy of this yesterday and bought it. It was an ok story about a modern shaman living in "the North". The style was a bit too ordinary for my tastes but the illustrations were just gorgeous and really added to it and made for a wonderful tale. This book really shows how illustrations can have a huge impact on a story. They were just beautiful, spooky and mysterious.
I really wanted to love this book . I just couldn't find my home inside it. Labeled " genre-defying," I found it baffling. Is it for me? My students? I can't really tell. And it's not compelling enough for me to want to figure it out. I feel sad that I feel this way.

Addition and change:
I have been stewing over this for days, wondering why it bothers me so much that this wasn't the book I thought it would be. I finally read School Library Journal's review and confirmed what I already felt - that
Sage Maria
Pure and mystical as the ice and snow. All at once beautiful and creepy, surreal and dream-like, dark and haunting. Soonchild is one of those books that's hard to put down once you've started it. And the gorgeous art really brings it all together and solidifies everything. Just awesome.
A hero's quest tale of the North, with illustration that perfectly matches the tone. I picked this up based on the printed rec from Patrick Ness on the book, and it is a bit reminiscent of his "A Monster Calls", though I would argue that "Monster" is a much better book. But it has a similar mysterious flavor, the illustrations enhance the story similarly. I do not know my Inuit? myth, but I assume that they are the basis for this story. It has a rambling, oral-tradition sort of style, which had ...more
This is a likely candidate for Weirdest Book I Read in 2012. Sixteen-Face John is an Inuit shaman who has pretty much forsaken the old ways. His wife, No Problem, is pregnant, but the baby, known as Soonchild, does not want to be born because she cannot hear the World Songs. So Sixteen-Face John goes on a vision quest to get the World Songs for his unborn daughter, along the way realizing that he went wrong by leaving the old ways behind. It's a good premise with nice illustrations but something ...more
I loved the premise and in many ways I loved the book so it was disappointing each time something spoilt it along the way. The language would be lyrical, drawing you deep into the mythical tale, only to be spoilt but sudden and jarring American style speaking which knocked you out of the mood and ruined the flow. I could see that Hoban was trying to show the influence of modern culture on this traditional world and in those instances it was kind of appropriate if a little awkward. There were oth ...more
I was completely taken in on the first page, the description of the North so intense I felt a chill "...where it's so cold that your nose hairs get stiff and your eyeballs get brittle..." I thought the illustrations were grotesquely beautiful. But it just didn't work for me. I wonder if it would have worked better read aloud? I would get wrapped up in the legend and the journey and then feel like I was suddenly jarred out of it. I was planning to give it 2 stars, but I went with 3 because of the ...more
I really loved this book. It is beautiful in every sense, from the illustrations to the layout, the ideas and the words. My only problem is that I don't know who I'd recommend it to, hence awarding 4 stars rather than 5. At times it seemed aimed at a much younger audience than it's 14 plus guidelines, at others it felt very adult. How many teenagers would identify with a middle-aged man awaiting the birth of his first child? In many ways it felt like a book for adults who love reading children's ...more
You ever stumble on a book that you’ve heard nothing about, but immediately find yourself immensely attracted to? Soonchild by the late Russell Hoban was that book for me — the Patrick Ness blurb on the cover acting as a sort of siren call. Friends, this genius, slim little book evoked the same sort of feelings in me that The Alchemist and Life Of Pi did.

Read the rest of my review here link goes live 7/18/12
When this arrived at work the other day, I was immediately drawn in by the beautiful and creepy illustrations. I expected an old Native American-like tale with talking animals and spirits, but it sadly didn't live up to my expectations. The entire story felt too one-dimensional. Plus I really can't imagine hand-selling this at work. It just doesn't seem right for its target audience.

I love Hoban. This, his last, vastly ambitious fable does not disappoint but is not going to be my favorite. The illustrations are extraordinary. Haunting, exquisite, and resonating. The fable resonates as well, on more than one level. I found it utterly engrossing but I think it's a book that will reward rereading.
This book blew my mind wide open. I've never read anything like it before - it's kind of a hybrid between a Graphic Novel and a traditional novel; not to mention the weirdness of entering a shaman's mindset. The fact that it was written by Russell Hoban, of "Bedtime For Frances" fame, makes it even weirder.
Samantha Waxman
After picking this book somewhat randomly off the shelf in the library, I absolutely fell in love with it. The drawings are gorgeous, and it's an amazing fairy tale--but not for kids. It's about finding yourself, family, the landscape of the mind and the was joyful to read.
A mysterious dream-read of a book, somewhere between allegory and vision. it was made more poignant for me knowing that Russ wrote this when he was near to death, and that I was reading it with a soonchild of my own in my thoughts, but I can see why it's left so many bemused.
So cool. Sharp and somehow cozy and mysterious pencil drawings perfectly fit the tone of this book. A very realistically portrayed man, who is a shaman in a village way up in the North, takes a very unusual journey to find the World Songs for his soon to be daughter.
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