Thursday 15 October 2015

The Song of Delphine

The Song of Delphine by Kenneth Kraegel (Candlewick Press)
HC RRP 24.95
ISBN 9780763670016

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Delphine is a servant girl, a friendless orphan who lives and works in the palace of Queen Theodora. She is alone and lonely. The one thing that brings her comfort is the ability to sing. When she does at night all her loneliness drifts away on song.

When Beatrice, the Queen’s niece, arrives at the palace, Delphine believes at last she will have a friend her own age. But Beatrice, unkind, spiteful and a trouble-maker, makes Delphine’s life more miserable than ever.

Delphine’s songs travel on the night air across the Savannah. A herd of giraffes respond to the loneliness and desperation in the child’s voice and move toward the sound. Their heads in Delphine’s window beckon her and she goes with them. There is a whole new and wondrous world outside the palace that Delphine can savour, and she fills her empty heart with scenes of beauty and nature.

Delphine wants to stay with the herd but knows she must return. Then the giraffe mistakes her window and puts her into Beatrice’s. It’s a photo on the bedside table that makes Delphine see past the cruel side of the other girl. They have something in common and this makes Delphine reach out in compassion and song to that commonality.

This is a moving story of loneliness and grief that addresses how emotions are often displayed in children’s misbehaviour. An excellent picture book, it can be used to generate class or any other adult/child discussion about feelings and emotions of anger and unkindness, and why and how they affect people the way they do.

Beautifully illustrated in watercolour and ink, this book will appeal to the 5+ year age group. Kenneth Kraegel is the author and illustrator of King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

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