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Book Review: Pleng’s Song by Patrick Maher

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Pleng’s Song is an enjoyable children’s novel that takes the reader through the journey of an 11-year-old girl named Pleng (which translates to “song” in English). As an adult reader, though, I feel the story could have been a bit more developed than it is. When Pleng was trying to survive on the “snake island,” for example, she did not seem all that afraid of the things–which I’m assuming she had never done before–that she was forced to do. She caught, killed, cooked, and consumed snakes she found, one of which almost suffocated her. There are parts of the story, such as the aforementioned instance, that are not very realistic. However, it is a satisfactory children’s story, so maybe my ramblings are for nothing.

Pleng is a strong and courageous character, who the reader witnesses grow throughout the story. She starts off as a bit of a brat, but decides to change her ways while facing near-death circumstances. I felt sympathetic towards this character throughout the story. Her family doesn’t seem to give a hoot about her, and she doesn’t have any close friends (until she becomes the talk of the town). She seemingly has no one to lean on. Then she finds herself out all alone, lost in a natural disaster and has to find a way to survive. Poor girl…

The writing is very good for the nature of the book, making a quick and easy read. Children will have no problem powering through the book’s entirety and becoming enveloped in the story. It’s creative and unique in parts. Some elements reminded me of other books–one that comes to mind is Life of Pi. But, overall, Maher brings his own uniqueness into the storyline.

Though I don’t really like the title–Pleng’s Song: “Song’s Song”?–the book is largely worthy for children to read. They will enjoy the story through the eyes of the narrator, Pleng. The cover of the novel–a child curled up in the corner all alone–is very fitting, encompassing the feeling brought on by the main character.

The book, however, also doesn’t seem to have any very strong morals for children (maybe a light moral of being a good person, but it doesn’t quite seem to hold strong as a moral); Pleng’s Song seems to be merely for entertainment, so I would recommend it to young children for this purpose.

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