Absolute pieces. That’s what I was when I came to the closing chapters of this beautiful beautiful book.
Gill has tugged my heartstrings before with social issues but it is with animal conservation stories that she has an absolute gift with her classics such as Run Wild and Eagle Warrior.
This time she turns her hand to Swans, the healing power of nature and in the publishing hands of Barrington Stoke meaning now even dyslexic and struggling readers can be inspired and empowered by her tale.
Dylan is falling apart. His mum decides enough is enough when he is expelled for punching his best friend, deregisters him for home education and packs up and moves home to her father’s house in Wales. It is not a happy move for either of them.
But rural coastal Wales does something to Dylan especially when his grandfather shows him the Swan Fields which leads to Dylan and local girl Elsie finding an injured swan and Dylan slowly finds a new life.
Seriously. This short story is beautiful. Whilst yes, I could have tumbled into a 50,000+ word unpacking of Dylan’s story, this equally is enough to pull the emotions and satisfy the heart.
I am vociferous in my respect and love for Barrington Stoke books and this collaboration is a particularly powerful and important one for the way it arms the reader with empathy and self-reflection on our coping abilities and self empowerment.
Depression in young males is something that is widespread but is largely invisible in mainstream media and entertainment often because it manifests differently to how depression is generally perceived. Whilst this is beginning to change in 2021 publishing, it’s still a quiet topic.
Swan Song is an empathetic look at how depression can manifest in young boys as Dylan becomes overwhelmed and feels left behind by the social and intellectual changes and demands of secondary school.
The tale explores Dylan’s journey back to himself and finding how he can fit into his changing world through the swans, learning to attune and interact with the natural world and the sea and with people through his grandfather, choir and without giving spoilers the project he eventually undertakes.
And equally it is a beautiful look at how stepping back and the natural world can help one find oneself and purpose once again.
As a home educator I really appreciated the sensitive and positive portrayal of deschooling and home education across Dylan’s story- showing how mainstream school isn’t the best place for all children and how children can still learn, shine and achieve outside of the ‘traditional’ system.
Dylan’s mum and grandfather allow him to decompress from the routines & pressures and then start enriching his mind with reading and outdoor time, leading to practical life applications of science and maths that give purpose and motivation to learn.
This was very special for me to see as often home education gets a bad image in Press and books, Gill Lewis absolutely gets it with Dylan that sometimes another way is the best way for some children but it doesn’t mean it’s for all; forever; nor negates the role or value of the school system.
This was a beautiful way to spend an afternoon even if I ended up in tears at the ending! I’m now inspired to go on a conservation influenced book spree!
Swan Song by Gill Lewis is published by Barrington Stoke thank you so much for my copy.