Review: William Nicholson – The Wind Singer

The Wind Singer
William Nicholson
Bowman and Kestrel are close twins. Within the city of Amaranth, everything is controled by tests and family ranking. Each of the districts has its own colour, and no one is allowed to swap – unless their family ranking moves up and down. Kestrel doesn’t like the tests. When their baby sister fails her tests it doesn’t impress the officials, and it doesn’t make Kestrel feel any happier.
295181Mumpo irritates me as much as he irritates Kestrel! Nose dribble, ugh. At the same time, he’s representing so many things that kids take for granted. Being a slow/dumb kid means that you don’t have friends. I think the ending for Mumpo is particularly suitable, although a little predictable.
This book is really quite harrowing in a way. The Zars are killing machines, and they literally kill everything and are happy about it! Not that this is presented in a positive light, the Zars are really quite terrifying. It’s a race to see who can survive, and it’s cut very fine.
Yes, the plot of this book is simple, somewhat predictable, and there is no character development to speak of. But it’s a children’s book! I think that the ideas presented in it are clear enough to children, and that’s what is important – not what a 20 something year old thinks of it.
I can understand why this book was a ‘Gold Award Winner’. The themes and values expressed in it are so poignant. The values of family, and friends, and also not judging people all on the same basis. The character of Mumpo is for pitying, but at the same time, he surely must be good at something.
This book reminds me of the Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix in a way. The castle with its different layers of people, each class not wanting to talk to the one below it. An emperor who is powerless or unhelpful. Of the two, I think I prefer the Seventh Tower, just because the character from that has a little more depth. As I’ve said before though, The Wind Singer is still enjoyable.
This book actually brings to mind the Naplan tests that are currently sweeping over Australia. Kids in grade 3 are expected to answer all kinds of questions, and then their schools are ranked according to the answers. It’s based on literacy and numercy – which are both important, but some kids’ minds just don’t work like that. I read the other day about kids in kindy being prepped for these big tests. There just is something wrong with ranking kids and schools like that, and then giving teachers rewards based on performance.
This is the first book in a trilogy. I read all of these books when I was much younger (when they are actually age appropriate!). I picked this one up at the opshop, because I prefer the old covers. Amazon’s offering for this one is a trilogy set only that I could find – but if you like the first one, you’re probably going to like all three.

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