Tonke Dragt, The Song of Seven, Pushkin Children’s/Murdoch Books Australia, Dec 2016, 304pp., $29.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781782691105
Tonke Dragt’s The Song of Seven is a classic adventure story for younger readers with plenty of misdirection, mystery and mayhem. Originally published fifty years ago in Dutch, The Song of Seven has only recently been printed for the first time in English, by Pushkin Press. Its choice of protagonist is unusual for a children’s novel: Frans Van der Steg, an awkward, somewhat bumbling schoolteacher in a country village who likes to invent stories for his pupils. Soon, Frans finds himself caught up in a real-life mystery of his own. As the story progresses, Frans’ students become drawn into the plot, often seeming to know more about the mystery than he does – a clever reversal of the typical roles of teacher and pupil. Quirky characters abound at every turn. Treasure, riddles, prophecies, conspiracies and magicians all figure into a labyrinthine plot. Some younger readers might find the slower pace frustrating, but The Song of Seven will suit those who like a story that meanders off the beaten track. Recommended for ages 8 to 12.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Foster