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Nightingale's Nest

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  692 ratings  ·  195 reviews
A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia

Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or "Little John" as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He f
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 20th 2014 by Razorbill
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A Snicker of Magic by Natalie LloydBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonThe Night Gardener by Jonathan AuxierThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. HolmThe Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
Newbery 2015
11th out of 109 books — 469 voters
The Eighth Day by Dianne K. SalerniJust a Drop of Water by Kerry O'Malley CerraThe Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy HolczerBrainwashed by Paul AertkerA Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Middle Grade Novels of 2014
25th out of 473 books — 780 voters

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Community Reviews

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Magical realism in children’s novels is a rarity. It’s not unheard of, but when children’s authors want fantasy, they write fantasy. When they want reality, they write reality. A potentially uncomfortable mix of the two is harder to pull off. Ambiguity is not unheard of in books for youth, but it’s darned hard to write. Why go through all that trouble? For that reason alone we don’t tend to see it in children’s books. Kids like concrete concepts. Good guys vs. bad guys. This is real vs. this is ...more
Shanshad Whelan
Review first posted on Views from the Tesseract:

When I first heard about this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. A middle grade fantasy with gorgeous cover art and a story that references Hans Christian Andersen’s ”The Nightingale“? That’s a surefire way to pique my interest. Sometimes this backfires on me and my high hopes just don’t live up to the actual text. But after reading this, I’m happy to report it exceeded expectations.

Twelve-year-old Little Joh
Destinee Sutton
This is going to be one of those times when I read a book that everyone else seems to love and I just don't get it. Riddled with sadness and ambiguity, I didn't truly enjoy the story at all. The closest I could come to liking this book was appreciating that author Nikki Loftin created something unusual and touching. There's a lot of good stuff here, but it didn't come together in a meaningful way for this reader. The writing was only so-so and the symbolism heavy-handed. Still, here we go:

This book just did not appeal to me -- Little John's life is so painful, his father is such a hideous character, his mother is absent, there is horrible fear of what Mr. King did with Gayle other than record her voice, the foster family is wretched -- none of this is mitigated by Gayle's magical flight at the story's conclusion.
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
Within a few pages of this book, I could feel the emotion of the story. There are some books that you just know will touch you and will make you feel. Loftin's Nightingale's Nest is certainly one of them. The writing in this book is spectacular and demands to be read not only silently but aloud to a whole group. This is a book that I found myself thinking about reading it to a class and discussing it with them. I do not feel this way about all books. Additionally there is a timeless quality to t ...more
Sacramento Public Library
A unique example of magical realism for middle grades that manages to ground itself in authentic emotions and the too-rarely seen reality of poverty. Little John is an entirely sympathetic, conflicted character, forced to make tough decisions and worrying too much about grown-up problems. While the adults in his life seem to fail him, they all have hidden complexity and even the Emperor vaccilates between appearing evil and pitiable. And Gale steers away from being too angelic, full of all the p ...more
Katharine Ott
"Nightingale's Nest" - written by Nikki Loftin and published in 2014 by Penguin Group. This dark, sensitive middle-grade novel is purportedly inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's tale "The Nightingale," but really very loosely. The original story tells of an evil Emperor with a mechanical bird whose beautiful song cures him. Loftin's book is narrated by a twelve year old boy, Little John, who is plagued with bad memories, guilt and dark thoughts. The gorgeous, trilling songs come from the throa ...more
This book is a beautiful tune that speaks to your heart and nourishes your soul. If you are not familiar with the fairy tale origin's check out the Hans Anderson version here.


This book’s literary quality weaves around you like the nest Gayle built. Little John’s narrative is heart wrenching as he struggles against the harsh realities of life and protecting (what he assumes is) Gayle’s crazy naivette and innocence. The gem lies at how John is at constant conflict with himself. He struggles with o
ARC provided by NetGalley:
I love magical children's stories such as this one. Twelve year old John is trying to keep his family together after a devastating loss. Mom is losing her grip on reality while Dad is losing himself in a bottle. As the family sinks deeper into both despair and debt, John is called upon to help his dad's landscaping business. It's on one of these jobs that he meets Gayle, a fragile and mysterious foster child. Their lives intersect as he tries to save her while continuin
I think I just get too grumpy about magical realism maybe. I really liked the realistic parts of this--really powerful look at a family being torn apart by grief and poverty--but (view spoiler)??

I'm kind of irrationally irritated that the marketing for this compares it to Bridge to T
Oh wow. Carrie Gelson called Nightingale's Nest "hauntingly beautiful." I whole-heartedly agree! Since it is based on a fairy tale ("The Nightingale"), it is bound to be somewhat creepy, which it definitely is. It makes me think of books such as "Breadcrumbs" and "The Real Boy" by Anne Ursu. Lots of theme topics come into play: right and wrong, anger, death and recovery, fear and courage, mental illness, greed, friendship, redemption, forgiveness, etc. At one point, the main character, Little Jo ...more
Barb Middleton
This book was beautiful and disturbing. The first time Little John hears Gayle singing he describes, "The notes were high and liquid, a honey-soft river of sound that seeped right through me. I stopped when I heard the first notes and just stood there, dropping cedar cuttings at my feet. The song sailed over the fence, like it was meant for me alone." Little John is helping his dad with his business by cutting and removing Pecan trees at a rich man's house dubbed, "The Emperor," when Little John ...more
Based on a story from Hans Christian Andersen, this book takes “The Nightingale” and turns it into magical realism. Little John’s family is in turmoil. His little sister died jumping out of a tree, his mother can’t deal with the loss and often forgets that her daughter died, and his father is struggling to make enough money to keep them from being evicted. So Little John has to help his father take down trees to make money. It is at Mr. King’s home that Little John first meets Gayle, a young fos ...more
Nikki Loftin has a way with words that is hard to describe - all of her stories are achingly beautiful, reach right into you and touch your heart, and all have this sense of uneasiness that never quite settles as you read.

I loved this story. It was so fascinatingly unique, and I was bewitched from the first page. On the surface, Nightingale's Nest is a simplistic story, but there was so much more at work. Behind the wonders of true friendship, the struggles a family goes through after the loss
I DID like this book. I feel compelled to say that upfront because for a long time through the book, I was plagued with that uneasy feeling one gets with certain allusions to certain situations involving vulnerable children. I wondered how the book was going to explain what really happened. It does, and it doesn't. Although this doesn't detract from the sheer quality of this book, it still left the pit of stomach feeling wobbly even if the ending righted the world again. I shouldn't be surprised ...more
I am reminded of an 80s movie called The Boy Who Could Fly. Magical thinking? Or the truth of children?
A Tisbear
I would rate this as Very Good juvenile fiction. It tries - & it largely succeeds with - things that children's literature usually doesn't bother with (mostly magical realism). I would have loved this in elementary school & feel that it has a lot of values to teach (mainly about coping with loss & maintaining integrity in dire situations).

That said, found myself puzzled and slightly annoyed by some the choices Little John made in his most stressful moments. It is in these situations
This review was originally posted on Narrative Investigations

As people may have guessed from the title, this is an adaption of the Hans Christian Anderson story "The Nightingale" and for once I am not grumbling over a retelling since this fairy tale hasn't been done to death before. I'm actually more familiar with the play adaption of it than the original story but even then it's easy enough to see the connections between the characters and set-up. The story remains a simple one, Mr King desires
When I first began Nikki Loftin's Nightingale's Nest it was with fear and trepidation because I'd listened to Nikki in person tell the story of how this book came to be written. She called it a story very close to her heart, one that had to be written. I also had heard rumors that it might be a story about abuse. So I was scared to read it because frankly, I don't like stories about abuse.

Well, I was right and I was wrong. Nightingale's Nest is about abuse, but it isn't the kind of story you wou
I learned about this book from the Nerdy Book Club. I also noticed a few other bloggers writing about it, so I decided I needed to read it. Unfortunately, I think it is meant for kids older than my students who are in grade three. However, after reading it, I am quite motivated to go find The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy since the Nerdy Book Club blogger said she read it to her students in grade three.

A lot of people connected it to Bridge to Terabithis, which is great, because I am re
Young Reader Reaction: Because of its "link" to Anderson's story, Loftin's tale adds nice variety to classic literature. I liked Nightingale's Nest and found it very thoughtful and human/ The characters are believable and their struggles are very real. Little John is a well-rounded character. His handling of the complicated situations was not ideal, but very engrossing.

I also appreciated the subtlety when weaving in the magical realism. Too many stories have very overt uses of magic, which beco
Little John is halfway between boy and man due to his tremendous growth spurt and it is from this unique vantage point that he struggles to fix all of the broken things in his life.

His beloved younger sister has died before the book begins and the grief within his family is still very fresh. Little John himself carries a grudge against all trees on the count of a tree playing a significant part in his sister's death (she leaped from a tree copycating her brother and didn't land right) and silen
12 year old Little John is reeling from the death of his little sister 10 months earlier, feeling guilty and seeing his family in pieces around him. This book is so heavy with sadness and pain, it's hard to describe. Little John's guilt, his parents' breakdowns, Gayle's horrible foster family, the spoiled rich man who wants everything, and how everything keeps getting worse and worse and worse until you can't imagine how it could get fixed. But it's beautiful, too. The language, the love, the ho ...more
Little John Fischer is helping his father cut down trees when he hears a beautiful song. The sound leads him to a young girl sitting in Sycamore tree. Gayle's singing has the power to heal. Turns out the most powerful man in town admires Gayle's music to the point of obsession. Nightengale's Nest is a retelling of a Hans Christian Andersen tale.

Hovering somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4. I was so engrossed in the story I could hardly put it down. I loved the way magical realism easily blended w
Nightingale’s Nest by Nikki Loftin
Razorbill, 2014
240 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

I finished Nightingale’s Nest the other day, and was immediately sad. I’m sad that my time following Gayle and Little John has come to an end. But one thing’s for certain, they are still with me, and will be for a long time to come.
This sweet and tough story lets readers suspend reality, while keeping the story grounded in absolute reality. A serious juxtaposition between the world we are stuck in, and t
Little John is working with his father trimming trees for Mr. King during the summer. One day he hears the most amazing music. He discovers it is a little girl who sounds like a magical bird. She is an orphan living with Mrs. Cutlin whose property borders Mr. King's. Gayle is just like a little bird, more comfortable in the nest she built in the tree than on the ground. Over the next few days Little John and Gayle become very close. Little John needs something good in his life. His family is not ...more
Twelve-year-old Little John spends his summer working with his father as they remove trees and brush for a wealthy neighbor. John still feels guilty because of his sister's fall from a tree, and when he meets Gayle, a foster child with an incredible voice, they strike up a friendship. Gayle loves climbing trees and claims that her missing parents will return and find her in her nest. John isn't sure what to make of her, but he wants to protect her from the abuse he is sure is occurring in her te ...more
Brandy Painter
Originally DNFed. Tried again and finished.

I get why this is getting so much buzz. It is exactly the sort of book adults like for kids to read. I was swept away by the excellent prose and the nod to Anderson's tale, but have some pretty major issues with how the end wrapped up. The book is sad, sad, sad, and then in a rush of 20 pages there is a happily ever after that left me feeling flat. That much awful wrapped up that perfectly and fast left me feeling cheated. There was no real closure.
Emmet O'Neal Library- Children's Department
Can you guess which fairy tale this book is loosely based on? It’s the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Nightingale.” It’s fun to read that short story first, then pick up this book and see if you can spot what’s the same about them (and what’s been changed or added).

While Little John is helping his dad clear trees for wealthy, selfish Mr. King, he meets the foster child who lives with his awful neighbors. Her name is Gayle. She sings as beautifully as a bird, and her voice seems to have heali
Carol Royce Owen
This is the third book that I've read in two weeks that involves the loss of a sibling. All three (The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner, Bird by Crystal Chen and this one, Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin) all have a sibling feeling as though they are responsible for the child's death, parents grieving, and another child who helps the family overcome the tragedy. In Nightingale's Nest, though, the child who is helping is just as needy as the grieving child, which adds an extra layer to thi ...more
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Nikki Loftin is the author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, which Publishers Weekly called "mesmerizing," and Kirkus called "irresistible," and Nightingale's Nest, which received a starred review from Kirkus. She lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, goats, and small, loud boys.

Nikki is a graduate of the University of Texas at
More about Nikki Loftin...
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy Wish Girl Change Guys Read: Terrifying Tales (Guys Read Library of Great Reading, #5) OMG - That Woman!

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