Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits - until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.
Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Canada, but grew up in various places across Canada, France and the USA. She started writing for children after a career as an occupational therapist. She's the author of many award-winning books, including Nim's Island, Nim at Sea, Raven's Mountain and Peeling the Onion.
Wendy Orr’s latest book is the epic story of Aissa, the daughter of a priestess, abandoned as a baby because she is imperfect, and raised as a slave. When she is twelve years old, she learns her name is Aissa - the dragonfly. Each year two thirteen-year-olds are chosen by the Bull King for the bloody bull dances in his court. None has returned, but for Aissa, surviving the bull court is her only chance of escape from slavery.
Dragonfly Song is set in the Bronze Age and delivers an evocative recreation of the culture of ancient Crete. The day to day lives of the people of this time and place are vividly described. The story is part prose and part verse, which will be challenging for some readers. However, the author controls this narrative with ease and the transitions from prose to Aissa’s internal dialogues, delivered in verse, are handled seamlessly.
Wendy Orr is adept at creating wonderful female characters, for example, Nim in Nim’s Island and Raven in Raven’s Mountain, and Aissa is no exception. She is a complex character - highly intelligent, with great stamina - but above all she is resilient. Her story is bleak, but ultimately filled with optimism as she transcends her circumstances.
Dragonfly Song is a gripping adventure, beautifully crafted, which will appeal to adolescents and adult fans of historical fiction, and to advanced readers in upper primary years.
I would use this in the upper primary classroom to compare the ancient Cretan culture depicted with those of other texts popular with children in this age group: the Percy Jackson series, The Hunger Games, Scarlet Runner and The Maze Runner. I would also get students to discuss the structure of the book and why the author chose to use prose and verse, and the effectiveness of these two methods of writing for conveying emotion.
Anthea Barrett, Primary Teacher, DECV, VIC