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Ghoulish Song Hardcover – March 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5-8-In this companion to Goblin Secrets (S & S, 2012), Kaile works hard in her parents' bakery/alehouse in a river city. On Inspection Day at the bakery, she allows a goblin and his troupe to perform in the public room and is given a bone flute. When she plays the instrument, she is separated from her shadow. No shadow, no life, according to her culture, and, despite her protests, there is a funeral for her the next day. Ostracized by family and community, Kaile leaves home, with Shade at her side. The city of Zombay is an odd place filled with Rock Movers, who lose appendages doing their work and replace them with makeshift metal parts, goblins that supposedly steal children and turn them into ghouls, and a host of other strange characters. There is a dark edge to this tale, and death seems very close. The story of redemption is what gives this book its appeal, with the strange characters and places more of a distraction than an asset. Some of the situations are, well, ghoulish; Kaile visits a Reliquary, a repository for bones, many of them human, and discovers that her flute is made of a young girl's femur. At times comic, at times creepy, this unusual tale winds its music around readers' hearts.-Kathy Kirchoefer, Henderson County Public Library, NCα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

From Booklist

Kaile, the protagonist of this light fantasy adventure, has to leave her bakery-shop home when her family—and the rest of the community—decides that she, after being cursed by goblins, is dead. The dead, in this medieval-meets-steampunk culture, are apparent because their shadows are no longer visible, but Kaile’s shy, wise shadow continues to travel with her as the little girl sets off to find a community, taking nothing of home with her but her bone flute and a longing to be seen as a living being. Alexander spins out Kaile’s adventures—and the cast of ghouls, humans, and other creatures she and her shadow meet—with quick, sure strokes, making this a vivid and fast-paced read. Kaile is strong, brave, and realistically imperfect both in her reasoning and her musicianship, and she’ll easily resonate with many readers. Give this to fans of Diana Wynne Jones’ books, as well as those sampling fantasy for the first time. Grades 3-6. --Francisca Goldsmith

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 710L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books; First Edition edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1442427299
  • ISBN-13: 978-1442427297
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Krista Cubicleblindness on April 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book was way more morbid than the first story in the series. My niece (8yrs) couldn't handle it after the first couple "verses" aka chapters. It is a pretty dark read, mentions children suicides, bones taken from people and made into musical instruments. Coal is made from human hearts and punishments for doing things "wrong" in this city are also dark/disturbing. I am not sure I would recommend this for sensitive or younger children.
The main character is told by her family that she is dead because her shadow is no longer attached to her body. Completely ignored, then a funeral performed on her she is eventually locked out of her home. Into the dark streets to find the Goblin who caused her shadow to separate with no help from him, she must venture into this very dark and scary city, alone to find more answers. How can she be dead...when she is alive, breathing and can communicate with others.

I listened to the audiobook which is narrated by the author. I think he does a great job narrating the story and giving voice to the characters, making the story feel very dark, brooding and scary.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By WorthTheRead on March 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"The last day of Kaile's life did not start well." This is the opening sentence from Goulish Song.
The companion book to the National Book Award winner, Goblin Secrets, starts strong and doesn't let up. This page-turner will not only captivate those from 8-12, it will entice and delight teens and adults as well with it's fanciful, well-written and suspenseful prose. Alexander, while ever the clever and award-worthy novelist, leaves nothing to be desired in his second novel. In this book, he finds his voice and sings it out loud.
It is just this sort of fanciful, well-written tale that turns a child into a reader. If you are a parent, buy this for your child. Without a doubt, all children will delight in this book. Exceptionally smart children will revel in it. Their imagination will recognize this delightful tale as worthy; they will become more creative, intelligent people for it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gaele TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Blending a touch of steampunk into this story, Alexander seems to hit the perfect blend of pace and suspense, with a bit of darkness for tension to please a reader or listener. While I might not be inclined to use this book as a bedtime read - it is the perfect companion for those children wanting something a little darker and scary: I can imagine this story influencing the ghost stories told in later years.

I really like Kaile, her frustrations with the ordinary are completely relatable, and her struggle to solve the flute's mystery and save her world are cleverly crafted and easy to follow. Other characters are as carefully constructed and introduced: with little details that foreshadow their upcoming place in the story, good or evil.

Beautifully narrated by the author, his voice is the perfect accompaniment to the story. Small distinctions in tone and pacing to illustrate different characters, and his pacing and clarity are perfection. Additionally, there is a discernible distinction in his tone as important plot points, hesitations and even points to remember are presented, a unique touch to self-narrated works that is often absent from other forms of audio.

This is the second in the trilogy, but the world and characters are so well defined, described and presented that having exposure to the first is not necessary: although this will encourage you to seek out the first book, it is that good. Both parents and children will enjoy this: never clichéd, with surprising and unique creatures this well-paced story will demand your attention until the end.

I received the audio cd's from Simon & Schuster via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By someguy on February 12, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This story runs parallel to the first book in that it takes place over most of the same time period (this one starts a little later), and has a couple crossovers with some characters. Mostly though it is a different story that happens to focus on the same end result, just from a different view. Great story. Would like to read more books about this world, but perhaps not the same events again.
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Format: Hardcover
William Alexander's Ghoulish Song is a short read and an adventurous, magical tale. Though technically the companion to Goblin Secrets, in which readers are first introduced to the city of Zombay, it isn't necessary to read this previous offering to enjoy Kaile's story.

Kaile dreams of being a musician and following in the steps of her grandfather, who recently passed away. In Zombay, music is magic that musicians use to protect the city and its inhabitants. Kaile often refers to stories and advice her grandfather shared, which serves to give the reader an understanding of Kaile's devotion to her grandfather as well as an understanding of the power of music.

"Music ties knots, and unties them, he had told Kaile. Think about a lullaby, one that ties up the world to make it a safe place for sleeping. It doesn't just convince the child - it convinces the world. Think about a funeral song. It can untie the string we use to hold our grief and let it all spill out. The same song, the very same song, can tie us back together again after we've spilled out." - Pg 32-33 of arc

Kaile tries to be good and follow the direction of her mother, who she feels cares more about her bakery and her position as the best baker in town than about Kaile, but she can't seem to say no when it comes to the magic of music, even when she knows she should. After an unfortunate incident with a goblin troupe, Kaile comes into possession of a flute made of bone, which, when played, separates her shadow from her feet, and sets into motion the events of the novel.

One of my favorite aspects of Ghoulish Song was Kaile's commentary regarding the other characters, like her brother, Snotfish. These descriptions feel realistic.
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