By Russell Hoban

Illustrated by Alexis Deacon

"Hoban is the best sort of genius." Patrick Ness, The Guardian

Somewhere in the Arctic Circle, Sixteen-Face John, a shaman, learns that his first child, a soonchild, cannot hear the World Songs from her mother's womb. The World Songs are what inspire all newborns to come out into the world, and John must find them for her. But how? The answer takes him through many lifetimes and many shape-shifts, as well as encounters with beasts, demons and a mysterious benevolent owl spirit, Ukpika, who is linked to John's past...

Categories: Fiction

For readers aged: 14+

  • Publication details:
  • Format: Hardback
  • ISBN: 9781406329919
  • Published: 01 Mar 2012
  • Price: £9.99
  • Size: 229 x 152 mm
  • Pages: 144

More to explore...

  • The-Marzipan-Pig
  • Ace-Dragon-Ltd
  • The-Twenty-Elephant-Restaurant

More books for age 14+

  • Rules-for-Vanishing
  • I-Will-Not-Be-Erased-Our-stories-about-growing-up-as-people-of-colour
  • Ghosts-of-the-Shadow-Market

Customer reviews


'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

'this wonderfully timeless and atmospheric story ... as attractive to look at and handle as it is to read' The Irish Times

'magical ... 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 on the way to being a very wise grown-up indeed' Telegraph

'The monochrome artwork is masterly and the words hold their own delights…certainly there is nothing quite like it.' The School Librarian

'Ideal for children who like their stories more mythical.' The Daily Telegraph

'I would love to read more from this unique and creative author!' Teen Titles

'wonderfully strange story' Irish Independent

'Atmospheric, poetic, beautiful.' The Irish Times

Write your own review

By submitting a review you grant us the right to display and use it in any way; please read our General Legal Notices for full details. If you are under 16, please obtain your parent/guardian’s permission before submitting or ask your parent/guardian to submit on your behalf.


Find your local bookshop:


  • Awards:

Also available in:


Recently viewed