Wild Song

Wild Song

By Author / Illustrator

Candy Gourlay


Historical Fiction

Age range(s)



David Fickling Books




Paperback / softback




The year is 1904. Luki has lived a tribal life in the mountains of the Philippines. Now she's growing up, she is expected to become a wife and a mother, but Luki isn't ready to give up her dream to become a warrior.When her tribe are offered a journey to America to be part of the St. Louis World's Fair, Luki will discover that the land of opportunity does not share its possibilities equally . . .

See Candy Gourlay's companion novel, Bone Talk.  Here, Candy Gourlay introduces Wild Song:




Things are changing in Luki's village; the ways and beliefs of the occupying Americans are creeping into everyday life. One thing which has not changed, however, is the ancients' expectations for a young woman. Caught hunting once too often, Luki is told she should marry her friend, Samkad. Determined to be free, Luki decides to take an offer to go to America to be part of the World Fair in St Louis. However, it soon becomes obvious that this wonderful adventure is not all it promised to be and she finds herself living in little more than a human zoo where the 'Igorot' are seen as savages, exhibits to be gawped at. Will she ever be able to find her way home?

Returning to the characters of Candy's previous novel, Bone Talk, Wild Song is an incredible book. Although not a sequel as such, it continues the stories of Samkad and Luki, highlighting how the lives of the Bontok people were affected by the Philippine-American War. Once again, Candy Gourlay skilfully weaves historical figures and events into her narrative, creating a powerful story which depicts the shameful event which was the St Louis' World Fair. The contemptuous treatment of human beings, the lack of respect for, and understanding of, cultural differences and callous exploitation is both shocking and uncomfortable to read - particularly when it is remembered that these attitudes and behaviours are hallmarks of any country guilty of colonisation.

Vividly told, the action is seen through the eyes of Luki, recalled as if she is speaking to her deceased mother, offering a very personal, immediate feel to the story. The reader shares her frustration with the ancients and the expectations placed upon her because she is a woman, and watches as the realisation dawns on her that Truman Hunt is manipulative and has little care for those he has persuaded to travel to America for the Fair.

As she experiences loss, humiliation, fear and prejudice, her belief in herself and the ways of her people, their traditions and customs, emerges stronger than ever. Wild Song is a powerful, poignant and moving story which, like its characters, is unforgettable. Essential reading!

336 pages / Ages 12+ / Reviewed by Sue Wilsher, teacher

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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