Swan Song by award winning author Gill Lewis is a thoughtful and sensitively written story about teenage mental health which highlights the power of nature to restore and heal troubled minds. A lovely book with a valuable and comforting message.
The reader meets Dylan on the day he is excluded from school after hitting another pupil. Dylan, a formerly happy boy, has found the transition to his grammar school extremely difficult and his unhappiness and anxiety has manifested itself in increasingly disruptive behaviour culminating in this act with its dramatic repercussions. Dylan’s mother makes the difficult decision to leave her job to homeschool her son and return to her childhood home in Wales to live with Dylan’s Grandad.
Although initially unhappy with the move gradually through his Grandfather’s non-judgemental attitude and kindness things begin to change for Dylan. However it is the link to nature that most profoundly affects him. Grandad takes Dylan out in his boat and it is the wide open seas and skies, the freedom and lack of pressure that calms him and enables him to learn how to relax and be himself. Grandad’s love of and interest in the whooper swans who return to the bay each winter is infectious and soon Dylan finds that he is concerned for their welfare and habitat in a similar way to his grandfather.
The two important threads of this story, the love and support of Dylan’s grandad and the beauty and importance of wildlife and its protection weave together in a manner that links them to Dylan’s depression and anxiety skilfully and sensitively. This is a lovely story told with great care and Gill Lewis manages to convey difficult themes including grief and loss in a gently accessible manner.
One of the aspects of the last year that has been discussed often is the importance of the access to nature to help people cope with difficult and stressful situations. Those lucky enough to have gardens and open spaces nearby have greatly appreciated them and it has brought home to many how much this accessibility matters. This kind and sensitive story portrays how that healing quality works and is also a reminder of the need to value and protect our natural environment.
As with all books published by Barrington Stoke Swan Song is produced in a dyslexia-friendly font specially created to make reading easier and an accessible layout and heavier paper with a gentle tint helps reduce visual stress. Careful editing ensures that this story can be enjoyed by children with a reading age of 8+ The age of the likeable protagonist and the subject ensures that this is a book that would be enjoyed by both upper primary and lower secondary age groups.
Thank you very much to Kirstin Lamb and Barrington Stoke for sending me my proof copy. Swan Song was published on 4th February and can be purchased online via your nearest independent bookshop which can be found on this map.