Wild Song

Publisher: David Fickling Books

The year is 1904 and Luki has lived her whole life in the mountains of the Philippines with her people, the Bontok tribe, but she’s not happy. She wants to be a warrior and is an amazing hunter but she has to hide her skills because girls aren’t allowed to hunt, and now the tribal elders want her to become a wife, and marry her best friend Samkad. Ok she likes him, but she doesn’t want to get married and start having babies!

So Luki decides to take Truman Hunt’s offer to go to America to be part of the World Fair in St Louis. It sounds like a wonderful adventure but actually after a long journey by boat and foot, she is really trapped in the ‘Igorot’ village. And being made to perform serious rituals as entertainment is awkward, and in fact dehumanising and humiliating. Slowly Luki realises her people are not seen as equals coming together to explain who they are, but exhibits. She stops trusting Truman Hunt and seeing him for what he is, a manipulator trying to make money. How can Luki stay true to herself when things are so difficult? And what about her friend Tilin, who was taken to hospital when she got pneumonia. Is she really being looked after?                  

This is a vividly told, very thought-provoking book as well as a thrilling adventure. The story is told ‘to’ Luki’s dead mother which is a very beautiful way of writing and means we get to see right into Luki’s heart. Although the story is fictional, the World Fair really happened and some of the characters in the book are based on real life people including Truman Hunt, who organised moving 50 Igorot people to the United States to be exhibited and was a very dodgy character, as we can read about in the fascinating What Happened Next section at the back of the book.

This story is set in the same world as Candy’s book Bone Talk, which focuses on Samkad’s story in the Philippines set just prior to this one and while it’s not necessary to read Bone Talk before reading Wild Song, it does add an extra dimension to the storytelling and is certainly a wonderful partner read.

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