Title: Song for a Scarlet Runner
Author: Julie Hunt
Publisher: Allen & Unwin 2013
Shortlisted, Younger Readers category, Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards, 2014
Shortlisted, Best Children’s Book category, Aurealis Awards, 2013
Winner, Inaugural 2014 Readings Children’s Book Prize, 2014
My Review: Song for a Scarlet Runner tells the story of Peat, a girl born with flame red hair in a settlement of brown-haired people. She is declared unlucky by her father and exiled from the village with her mother and sister, Marlie. They move into the caves of the Overhang tending to a herd of cattle and making cheese for the village. After their mother dies, life goes on normally for Peat and her sister Marlie, until the day a stranger shows up. They direct the stranger to the village, but when it is revealed that the stranger carried a dying sickness that has passed onto the village, they believe that Peat has caused this bad luck and she is chased from the Overhang into the endless marshes where she meets a red-tailed twittering sleek, a Scarlet Runner, a pernickety animal that from one moment to the next will either bite her, bring her food or guide her.
In the marshes she is captured by Eadie, a mind reading swamp hag and healer-woman, who takes her as an apprentice. Eadie begins to teach Peat the craft of storytelling before taking her to the Hub, where the worlds meet, to perform the telling a great story. Peat finds out that storytelling is a powerful thing, and when Eadie betrays her Peat finds herself trapped in a timeless world beyond the Silver River with an ancient warrior boy and his great hound.
I really enjoyed this book from the moment I picked it up. For middle-grade readers and adults who love a good tale, Julie Hunt has woven an easy to read, fast paced and well written fantasy adventure story about a brave girl in a suspicious world, who will do anything to find her way back to her sister. Peat is a well crafted character – a strong, independent heroine who pulls you along on a journey full of adventure. On her quest she finds there is a world beyond the Overhang that is full of wonder and magic where she learns about bravery, love and friendship and the power of words.
The cast of side characters in Song for a Scarlet Runner were wonderful, from the naughty, yet helpful sleek, to the hilarious squabbling Marsh Aunties who competed to make Peat their apprentice, to Mother Moss, an old healer woman Peat meets along the way to the Hub, and my favourite side characters of all – the lonely warrior boy and his loyal hound.
Overall, this was a great read! Congratulations to Julie Hunt for making the shortlist of the above mentioned awards.
My Rating: 4/5 Stars – Highly recommended.
Author Bio: (From Allen & Unwin website) Julie Hunt lives on a farm in southern Tasmania and is fascinated by landscapes and the stories they inspire. This interest has taken her from the rugged west coast of Ireland to the ice caves of Romania. She loves poetry, storytelling and traditional folktales, and her own stories combine other-worldly elements with down-to-earth humour. Her picture books include The Coat (ill. Ron Brooks) and Precious Little (ill. Gaye Chapman). She’s written a three-book series called Little Else about a plucky young cowgirl (ill. Beth Norling), and a graphic novel called KidGlovz (ill. by Dale Newman, who did the Scarlet Runner cover).
In Song for a Scarlet Runner, Julie explores an idea that occurs in many traditional stories throughout the world – the ‘external soul’. A person’s spirit is taken from their body and hidden away so they can never be killed, but eventually time and the laws of nature catch up with them.