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Nightingale's Nest

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  1,047 Ratings  ·  226 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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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
Dec 30, 2013 Shanshad Whelan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, childrens, mg
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
Apr 08, 2014 Tessyohnka rated it it was ok
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.
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:

Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
May 26, 2014 Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mg, 2014-read-in, 2014-mg
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
Stephi Cham
Jan 01, 2017 Stephi Cham rated it it was amazing
Shelves: made-me-cry
So incredibly beautiful. Nightingale's Nest captures pain, guilt, and beauty in almost every character in this book. Loftin integrates fantasy with the authenticity and emotional rawness of "real life," and, like Gayle's voice, this story has a healing element in itself. Reader, by the time you reach the ending, you may find yourself wanting to let out a tiny sigh of satisfaction (and possibly many, many tears).
Carrie Gelson
Hauntingly beautiful. A story about the power of grief to overwhelm and surround us. What a story full of so many different kinds of moments- worrisome, sweet and lovely, angst filled. Upper middle grade.
Jun 17, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 14, 2013 Tasha rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens-books
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
I stumbled on this book at the 2015 Texas Book Festival after hearing the author speak. It is a modern reimagining of Hans Christian Andersen's tale The Nightingale set in a small Texas town.

It is a story about a boy who not only carries the weight of the world on his shoulders but an unbearable guilt for a family tragedy that he feels is his own. His family is poor so poor that had to pawn his Christmas gifts to cover the rent. His dad is a hard worker but makes poor choices concerning money.
Katharine Ott
Mar 09, 2015 Katharine Ott rated it liked it
"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
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
Mar 24, 2013 Erica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 06, 2014 Shawna rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2015 Renata rated it liked it
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
Mar 28, 2014 Kathleen rated it really liked it
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
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.
Jun 27, 2015 소피아 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. Is one one the few books that I read, lead me to tears. Which not all books can do that. Is just too amazing. The every page you read will only bring you more tears. Which I felt is just an amazingly written book! Super duper touching.
Kimberley Little
Jul 03, 2013 Kimberley Little rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2014
This is a gorgeous, lyrical, haunting story that will grab your heart and squeeze it to pieces. I loved it - and blurbed it! I can't wait to share this novel with my family (nieces) and friends.
Aug 02, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
I am reminded of an 80s movie called The Boy Who Could Fly. Magical thinking? Or the truth of children?
Edward Sullivan
Touching, beautifully written work of magical realism inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Nightingale."
Benji Martin
Mar 13, 2014 Benji Martin rated it it was amazing
It took me a little while ti get drawn into it, but after about 75 pages, I realized I was reading a very good book. One of the best of 2014 so far. Maybe the best. I haven't decided yet.
Esmy (The Introverted Reader)
Jun 06, 2016 Esmy (The Introverted Reader) rated it really liked it
[3.75 Actual Rating]
I really enjoyed this beautiful yet emotional tale. Great writing.
Katie Riley
Jun 21, 2014 Katie Riley rated it it was amazing
This book was so lovely! The magical realism was so beautiful; I didn't want it to end!
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
Jul 17, 2014 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Shelves: retelling
Little John Fischer's sister Raelynn died in a backyard tree-climbing accident and his family isn't doing well: mom is delusional, talking to and about the deceased member of the family all the time. She can barely leave the house and is almost always hysteric. Dad, who owns a tree and brush removal service, has started spending his meager paychecks on alcohol to drink away his despair; this leaves the Fischers in some dire straits financially speaking, and to compensate, John's dad makes him co ...more
Nightingale's Nest is not simply a story; it is an experience. 12-year-old John is going to work with his father this summer. John's little sister, Raelynn, died in a tree-climbing accident a year ago. John's family used all their available funds (including savings) to pay for Raelynn's funeral and burial. They have sold everything of value they own and are struggling now to pay rent each month.

As many surviving older siblings do, John feels guilty that he was not able to save his sister, 'catch
Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Lofton is a modern-day story of a boy, Little John, whose family is still reeling from the tragedy of losing Little John's sister several months previously. Not only are there emotional scars, but the event has left the family with little money, when they never had much to begin with. It is summer, and Little John is working with his father doing tree work for the town's richest resident-- an aloof and strange widower named Mr. King. It is while working in Mr. King's ...more
Carol Royce Owen
Apr 19, 2014 Carol Royce Owen rated it really liked it
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...

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