Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Soonchild” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.77  ·  Rating details ·  247 ratings  ·  72 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
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Soonchild, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Soonchild

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  247 ratings  ·  72 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Hilary by: Found in the library
So many people really like this book and perhaps it didn't help my copy being in black and white ( many reviews mention a change of colour as the story progresses which sounds like a nice idea ) but I found this story confusing.

Soonchild is an unborn child who is due to be born but is suspected to be reluctant to arrive. The father who is an Inuit shaman, is described as lazy, scared of many things, likes to eat pizza and drink coke. He goes on a journey of discovery to aid the birth of his chi
Feb 13, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I am adding this book to my DNF shelf.

I really tried to like it but I just could not get past the names and the writing style.

The idea intrigued me but it was hard to get into the actual book. Even though it is a short book, every page felt like a hill I had to climb. It took the same level of effort for me to read this as it does my textbooks. That is not a good thing.

I may try again at a later date but for not it is a DNF.
James Benham
In all honesty, I struggled with the book. There are some things I love; the names that give hints about that person's personality; the short, snappy 'chapters'; the blend of the modern and spiritual world. There are lots of things to really love about this. The problem is, I just couldn't get into it. It felt clunky to read and I really had to force myself to keep going. I can understand some people really loving it but it just wasn't for me. Despite that, I had a few laughs, worried over the f ...more
Alex (not a dude) Baugh
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: randomly-reading
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
Aug 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
get it. read it. it's lovely. and not a little wise.
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
Oct 24, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this book. I can't decide whether I like its uniqueness or whether it's just too confusing.
Deacon's illustrations are stunning. The charcoal sketches create a dark, mystical image and the subtle outline of skeletons and trees in the Yiwok are eerily beautiful.
Hoban's story is difficult to follow at times and I did have to stop and back track occasionally to keep up. He has an interesting style of writing with a number of word plays and subtle humour that
Donna Enticknap
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a swirling, deep story. It's the illustrations, though, which really make this book pretty special - they work with the text perfectly. The actual pages of the book even change colour to match the flow of the story. Other reviewers have commented that they don't like mentions of the modern world juxtaposing with the traditional Inuit elements, but they're an integral part of the story, and it's a beautiful look at how traditions change and adapt around the times in which people live.
Oct 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
lucy  black
May 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids-fiction
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?

Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Pam Saunders
Jun 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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.

Emma Vardy
Strange book. I have heard really good reviews for this book, but was confused by it. A mythology story mixed with modern life, not sure if it was trying to show how modern life can cloud what is around us.
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
Though I did finish the book, it was a struggle to stay interested. The writing style could be a struggle for younger readers.
The illustrations are wonderful and support the storyline.
Ellie Labbett
Feb 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely bizarre on so many levels, but so wise and makes such sense on many others. 'Soonchild' follows a man called John, who is blinded by fear and has become complacent towards his spiritual responsibilities after enjoying the ease of modern life. John has ignored the spirits, and in doing this has risked them being forgotten and fading out of existence. This is all to the detriment to his soonchild, who needs to hear the songs of the world in order to wish to be born. We follow John's jou ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dreamlike atmosphere and simple but fun writing style tell the surreal, fairytale-like story of ancient vs modern/tradition vs change (but not in a preachy way) about a lapsed shaman who has fallen into a pattern of pizza, cola, and TV, who finds out that his unborn child can't hear the World Songs that coax children to emerge into the world; so he dusts off his rusty shaman skills and goes on a quest into the spirit world to retrieve the lost Songs so his baby can be born.
Yasemin Gyford
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picturebooks
I love everything about this book.
Wilma Coleman
Dec 05, 2017 rated it liked it
A bizarre read but lovely quirky quotes on how to get on with live
Feb 25, 2017 rated it liked it
not really sure what I just read, it was ok and i gave it 3 stars for the illustration, but confusing story and the pacing was too fast and just a bit odd.
Feb 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
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
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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." The publisher claims this book is for readers age 14+, but I think it might be best appreciated by those you ...more
A.E. Shaw
Apr 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012

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
Anthony Burt
Jan 02, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 22, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Feb 26, 2013 rated it liked it
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
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Insomniacs
  • The Ghost's Child
  • The Tiger Who Would Be King
  • The Mystery of The Fool and The Vanisher
  • Kali's Song
  • The Gawgon and the Boy
  • Stop Snoring, Bernard!
  • The Golden Compass Graphic Novel, Complete Edition
  • A Bus Called Heaven
  • The Golden Day
  • The Old Country
  • The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root
  • When the Sky Is Like Lace
  • The Land of Green Ginger
  • The Flight of Dragons  (Tales from the Five Kingdoms, #4)
  • The Ugly One
  • Pinocchio
  • Dinosaurs Love Underpants
See similar books…
Russell Conwell Hoban was an American expatriate writer. His works span many genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mainstream fiction, magical realism, poetry, and children's books. He lived in London, England, from 1969 until his death. (Wikipedia)
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“He was thinking what a long and wide thing time is, to have so many happenings in it.” 5 likes
More quotes…