I was so excited when I heard that Kate Gordon had written a companion novel to her beautifully haunting story The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn - and I'm happy to say that I loved Melodie Rose as much as I love Wonder. Where Wonder was shadows and loneliness, Melodie Rose is light and stardust. While the two girls are very different, both earn the love of the grouchy unearthly crow Hollowbeak, who ultimately sees the beauty at the heart of both girls.
This story starts with Melodie Rose being abandoned on the doorstep of Direleafe Hall, with no memory of what had come before, and only brief flickers of her old life before that moment. It is then that she comes to the realisation that she must be a ghost - and her suspicions are confirmed when she realises she is able to see and speak to the three ghostly girls who live at the school. Even though Melodie had always been brimming with songs and curiosity in her old life - she now realises she is relieved not to be seen by anybody here. Being seen feels somehow too dangerous.
Melodie is happy enough with the three ghostly girls and Hollowbeak for company - but it quickly becomes clear that Direleafe Hall is in danger. The mysterious Lady in White has plans to destroy the school and Melodie realises that only she is in a position to save it.
Will Melodie and her new friends find a way to save the school? And will Melodie find the voice that she lost the day her heart was broken?
This story has the timeless feel of a fairytale, sparkling with wonder and mystery and magic. It resonates with something lost, while still glimmering with hope. We are given glimpses of the heartbreak that occurred in the lead-up to Melodie's arrival at Direleafe Hall, and slowly it becomes clear why Melodie has lost her once beautiful singing voice. The prose itself is dreamily beautiful - with sentences you will want to savour like small shimmering jewels. I adore the outwardly grouchy crow Hollowbeak - who is darkly funny and inwardly full of heart.
As in Wonder Quinn, I also loved the gently whimsical black and white illustrations by Rachel Tribout, which are the perfect accompaniment to this story of courage and friendship and healing.
Melodie Rose is a wonderful protagonist for young readers - holding true to her belief that kindness and love have the power to soften hearts and cement friendships. She illuminates the way in which having the courage to be seen allows us to shine like stars - even on the darkest of nights.
A huge thank you to UQP for my review copy of this magical and luminous book. I can't help but hope that this is not the last we will hear of Direleafe Hall.
Highly recommended for your home or school library.
Published by University of Queensland Press.