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Soonchild (Novel, 2012)

Soonchild tells the story of a shaman known as Sixteen-Face John, who lives in a cold, snowy region referred to as "The North," and who fears he's losing his way in the modern world. He increasingly spends his time "drinking Coca-Cola and watching TV with his feet up and reading magazines with centrefolds in them." John's wife is expecting a baby whom they plan to name Soonchild, but a crisis occurs when Soonchild refuses to leave the womb because she can't hear the "World Songs" — a special kind of music that is necessary for the world to exist, and which all children must hear before they can be born.

In order to coax his daughter out into the world, John is forced to embark on a shamanic quest to find out why the World Songs have disappeared and bring them home so Soonchild can hear them. In the course of this journey he travels into the spirit world and the realm of the dead, where he must face down demons and enlist the aid of a variety of animal spirits and other mysterious characters — including Nanuk the giant polar bear, Old Man Raven, Ukpika the owl-woman, Yarluk the killer whale, Timertik the walrus, and the spirit of his great-grandmother who was a shaman herself. [from Wikipedia]

Type of work: 
Year of first publication: 
Original publisher: 
Walker Books Ltd.
Age range: 
Older children
Illustrations by: 
Alexis Deacon
Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2012 (longlist)

Review quotes: 

"Hoban fearlessly tackles the big questions: the distinction between the real and the unreal, the nature of courage, and the debt humans owe the dead and the unborn ... Hoban's fans will revel in this last tale of his." Publishers Weekly

'This magical tale from a master storyteller is highly readable and full of imagination…The stunning illustrations by Alexis Deacon are as important to the telling of the story as the text, and this book will truly delight both children and adult alike.' We Love This Book

'Hoban’s books never float around the front of the brain but delve deep where it matters…this book is mysterious but not obscure, alternately funny and profound' Carousel

'Walker are also to be congratulated on producing such a beautiful, physical object, with a fine dust jacket, fully illustrated boards, and different coloured paper to represent different parts of the narrative, and all for under a tenner. Alexis Deacon’s moody pencil illustrations add a haunting counterpoint to the magical realism of the story, and have their own moments of wit…Every adolescent should have a copy of this one. Trust me, nobody will be writing stories quite like this anymore.' Guardian

'as attractive to look at and handle as it is to read' The Irish Times

'this is one for sophisticated readers of all ages' The Sunday Times

'This unusual tale for both adults and children is imaginative, magical and readable' Booktrust

'Some have said that Soonchild isn't really a book for young adults. Well, it is and it isn't. It's a book for everyone. I'd read it to young children - all folk tales are scary. I'd read it myself for pleasure.' The Bookbag

'any adolescent who’ll appreciate this thoughtful, juicy piece of mythmaking is well on the way to being a very wise grown up indeed.' The Telegraph

“. . . a magical, thought-provoking expedition.” - New York Journal of Books

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