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Nightingale's Nest

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,229 ratings  ·  246 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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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  1,229 ratings  ·  246 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
Sep 16, 2017 rated it liked it
this is a beautiful story. about friendship and redemption. little john tries to make it right by gayle and his family.

it is also a story about religion and God. i do enjoy this book. but not floor by it.
Mar 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ashamed, truly, that I am just now reading this!

Nikki gave me this book when we first met, several years ago at conference in Texas. She is a delightful person and I'm pleased to say that we've become friends! I think that was partially why I didn't read the book, though. What if that nice funny woman I met wrote a bad book? Also, in my defense, right after I got it we began to remodel our basement so that I could have an office, and this and many other books that would end up on my built in bo
Shanshad Whelan
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: childrens, fantasy, 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 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 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-read-in, mg, 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
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
Jan 08, 2015 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
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.
Stephi Cham
Jan 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: made-me-cry
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 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
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: young-adult
This was engaging and different but had I known what I was getting into I would have left the pretty book on the shelf. One of the back cover critics said that it "perfectly captures the challenges of growing up and dealing with loss". REALLY!? What I thought it perfectly captured was how cruel, disillusioned and irresponsible people are when they grow up and can't deal with loss, and how devastating and heavy life is for the children who are caught up in their web.

I'm all for teaching youth ab
Oct 14, 2013 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 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
Holly Mueller
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 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
Liza Wiemer
Realistic and magical, sad and hopeful, love and loss. Healing.

When Little John has to grow up way too fast and work like a man at 12, he does it without complaint. Circumstances have forced him to grow up way too fast, but then Gayle comes into his life, and he has reasons to smile.

NIGHTINGALE"S NEST is a novel with magical realism that's chock full of pain as well as hope. Little John and Gayle, a girl who's songs can heal, are characters for middle grade students looking to find some magic i
Shawna Briseno
Mar 06, 2014 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
Mrs. Mulrine
Mar 28, 2014 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
Jun 27, 2015 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 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.
Benji Martin
Mar 13, 2014 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.
Katie Riley
Jun 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book was so lovely! The magical realism was so beautiful; I didn't want it to end!
Edward Sullivan
Touching, beautifully written work of magical realism inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Nightingale."
Aug 02, 2014 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?
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
[3.75 Actual Rating]
I really enjoyed this beautiful yet emotional tale. Great writing.
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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

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“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” That’s Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani human rights...
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“music stopped, and I felt my heart constrict, like I’d lost something precious. I took another step, and another, until I could see through the leaves. That’s when I realized the singer was a person. A little girl. She was plain, with brown hair the same color as mine. But hers was ratted around her face like she’d never seen a brush, and she had dirt smeared across her cheeks and nose. Too thin, I thought, as she climbed over the edge of the bundled mess of sticks and out onto a branch to see me better. She was awfully close to the slender branches that I knew wouldn’t hold the weight of a kid, even a skinny little girl. I had to get her to come down before” 0 likes
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