In Diann Maree’s novel for young people, a 12-year-old girl with magical connections to the animals on her family’s farm suddenly feels a dark force breaking those bonds.
Normally, Grace can miraculously find any animal that goes missing. She saves a foal dying from an adder’s bite and, following a “sixth sense,” rescues a calf caught in a barbed-wire fence. She has an especially close bond with the pigs, singing to and playing ball with them.
Grace is heartbroken when her father insists they need someone more experienced to handle the piggery. She nicknames the rude, new hired hand “Pig Man” because of “his big, turned-up nose, pale pink skin and tiny eyes.” As time passes, the animals seem distant from her. Is this Pig Man’s doing, or is Grace losing touch with them?
When Grace’s parents leave town for a wedding, her gentle grandfather visits. After Grace reveals she has “lost something,” he suggests a woman who keeps a flock of black swans—birds that remind people “how to reconnect with their true power”— might help her. Once she has met the woman, Grace embarks on a mystical journey to regain her power and find herself.
Maree delivers solid description, whether she’s describing lush land or Pig Man’s dismissive, cutting brusqueness. She also effectively depicts Grace’s fears, anxieties and insecurities in a way that readers will find engaging and relatable.
However, there’s so much focus on Grace’s feelings, thoughts and observations that the story plods along from lack of action. More illustrations could lend a richer experience; as is, there’s only one illustration, repeatedly appearing at the top of each chapter. Although there’s a hint the story will continue, after Grace’s epiphanous journey readers will be frustrated when the major Pig Man plot is simply dropped.
Although a well-intentioned lesson for young readers, the story requires a thoughtful revision to lend it greater appeal.
Also available as an ebook.