Dragonfly Song cover

By Wendy Orr

Dragonfly Song

A gripping upper-middle-grade fantasy set in Bronze-Age Crete from Nim’s Island author Wendy Orr

The girl has had many selves in her short life. The first she remembers is Aissa, the daughter of Mama and Dada, sister to Zufi who watched the goats. Then the Bull King’s raiders came, and Mama said, “Don’t make a sound till I come back.” And when the villagers found her she was silent as stone, because Mama never came back again.

So the villagers cursed her as back luck and made her No-Name, lowest of the servants to the Lady, the island’s priestess. But there were whispers, as she grew, of another self: of the Lady’s rejected first daughter, born imperfect with two extra thumbs. The silent girl looks at the scars on her wrists and wonders, but she has more pressing concerns. The villagers blame her bad luck for the tribute the Bull King now demands of them: two youths given each spring to dance with his bulls and die for his god’s glory. And the servants hate and fear the unnatural way the animals all come to her. For Aissa, though, this bond with creatures of fur and scale is the first clue in finding the true self that no one else can give to her, or take away.

Wendy Orr, the author of Nim’s Island, introduces a resourceful and resilient heroine for slightly older readers. Inspired by an archeological trip to the island of Crete, where frescoes show figures leaping over the backs of bulls, Orr weaves an intriguing mythological portrayal of the Bronze Age Minoan civilization. Lyrically written and refreshingly unpredictable, Dragonfly Song suggests a fascinating origin for the legend of the Minotaur and his dark tribute.

Available In


Ages 10-14
ISBN: 978-1-77278-037-6
List Price: $19.95 CAD / $17.95 USD
Trim Size: 5.50 x 7.80 inches / 13.97 x 19.812cm
Pages: 408

Distributed in Canada by University of Toronto Press

Distributed in the U.S. by Ingram Publisher Services

Carton Quantity: 24

About this book

Awards and Honours

  • 2018 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award (Short-listed) (Canada)
  • 2018 Austin Waldorf School Children's Choice Awards: Seventh Grade Honor Book (Runner-up) (United States)
  • 2019 Rocky Mountain Book Award (Short-listed) (Canada)
  • 2018 Sunburst Award: Young Adult Fiction (Long-listed) (Canada)
  • 2018 Maine Student Book Award (Long-listed) (United States)
  • 2017 Kirkus Best Middle-Grade Books selection (Commended) (United States)
  • 2018 Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year – Ages Twelve to Fourteen selection (Commended) (United States)
  • 2018 CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens Spring selection (Commended) (Canada)
  • 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature: Children's Literature Award (Winner)
  • 2017 Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year: Younger Readers Honour Book (Runner-up)
  • 2017 Prime Minister's Literary Awards: Children's Books Joint Winner (Joint winner)
  • 2017 Junior Library Guild selection (Commended) (United States)



Praise for Dragonfly Song

2018 TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award Finalist

2019 Rocky Mountain Book Award shortlist

2018 Sunburst Award: Young Adult Fiction longlist

2018 Maine Student Book Award nominee

2018 Austin Waldorf School Children’s Choice Awards: Seventh Grade Honor Book

2018 Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year – Ages Twelve to Fourteen selection

2018 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens Spring selection

2017 Kirkus Reviews Best Middle-Grade Books selection

2017 Junior Library Guild selection

2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature Award Winner (Australia)

2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Children’s Books Joint Winner (Australia)

2017 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year: Younger Readers Honour Book selection (Australia)

★ STARRED REVIEW “Orr tells her tale in both narrative poetry and prose for an effect that is both fanciful and urgent, drawing a rich fantasy landscape filled with people and creatures worthy of knowing. An introductory note describes Orr’s inspiration in the legend of the Minotaur, but her story is no retelling but a meditation on rejection and acceptance, on determination and self-determination. The shifts between poetry and prose build tension just as surely as the bull dances do. As mesmerizing as a mermaid’s kiss, the story dances with emotion, fire, and promise.”—Kirkus Reviews Starred Review

“The Bronze Age setting makes for a unique backdrop, and Aissa is a sympathetic character. Her struggles are heartrending, and made more so by the lyrical storytelling style. The descriptions of the dances are especially vivid. VERDICT Hand-sell this unusual tale to fans of Shannon Hale’s historical fantasies.”—School Library Journal

“A retelling of the legend of the Minotaur, Orr tells Aissa’s tale in a lyrical mix of narrative poetry and prose, using lush, vivid language to create an unparalleled fantasy world full of life and lively characters. While young readers with a special interest in history will immediately be drawn into this meticulously researched, literary story, its fast-paced, adventurous, epic feel will undoubtedly appeal to all readers.”—Booklist

“The narrative style shifts between straightforward, lyrical prose and imagistic free-verse poetry, a technique that infuses the story with a dreamlike atmosphere. Both forms advance the action, but the poetry enhances the sense of intimacy by focusing attention on Aissa’s impressionistic views of the world and her sense of isolation among the people who fear, bully, and reject her. Her ultimate triumph is credibly compromised, making this an unusually thoughtful offering in the middle-school mythology genre.”—Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“[A] work of beauty. From the stunning cover to the mythological imagery and lyrical prose, readers are drawn in and carried along on an intense ride….Orr’s language is gripping and enchanting, and Dragonfly Song would make a perfect read-aloud chapter book for middle grade teachers. While the academic cross curricular subject areas are obvious, including history, mythology, religion, spirituality, even bullying, I enjoyed this story simply as a pleasure read. Readers will find that Dragonfly Song and its fearless heroine will stick with them long after the final chapter. Highly Recommended.”—CM Magazine

Dragonfly Song is an impressive work of middle-grade historical fiction. Aissa is a brave, tenacious girl, who rebels against the constraints of her life without appearing anachronistic. There isn’t a lot of young people’s fiction set in the Bronze Age, and the details here are lovingly researched, creating a transportive world. Especially noteworthy is the representation of religion in a pre-Christian setting, as the book explores both its beauty and brutality.”—Quill & Quire

Dragonfly Song takes readers on a magical journey…The novel’s narrative structure is exceptional with sections in poetry revealing Aissa’s thoughts and feelings. The cover graphic is vibrant and innovative showing images which represent the major themes of the novel. Overall, this is simply a beautiful book which will definitely appeal to readers who appreciate a good adventure in a mystical setting!”—Resource Links Magazine

“This is a fascinating story, well-told. The kingdom is so realistically drawn that it feels more like history than fantasy.”—Youth Services Book Review

“[Dragonfly Song] was very original and creative….I also like that the book was partially written in poetry and partially written in prose. Books are usually one or the other, so I like how the author wove them together. I love how this story was very detailed, as I could picture almost everything. Overall, Dragonfly Song was an amazing book.”—Farrah, Age 11, Kids’ BookBuzz

“Wendy Orr, author of Nim’s Island, uses her formidable writing skills, poetic prose and narrative poetry to bring this historical fiction to life, juxtaposing the old ways of Crete with the changes brought by the invading Minoans. Highly recommended for middle, high school, and public library collections.”—Oregon Coast Youth Preview Center

“Part fantasy, part fairy tale, and part myth, Dragonfly Song is completely gorgeous….Aissa is a heroine to be admired….Aissa is wonderfully resilient, and although my heart broke for her constantly as I read, I never doubted that this fierce, smart, loving girl would triumph despite the many forces working against her. I cannot recommend Dragonfly Song enough. I was sad to turn the final page and leave Aissa behind, but I suspect she’ll stay with me for a long while.”—YA Books Central

“[A] magnificent, magical book for teens and young adults….I couldn’t put the book down.”—The Reading Castle

“I love the gentleness and the vulnerability in this story. I also love the hope, the knowing that there is more in store for Aissa. And I love Aissa’s sense of good and her perseverance. My goodness, she certainly perseveres….This is a book to give readers that love being absorbed in another world.”—Blue Stocking Thinking

“Thrilling to say the least.”—Log Cabin Library

“Orr does a great job of weaving verse in with the prose of the story. Many other aspects of Greek mythology also appear in the story, such as sacrifice and animal imagery. Though Aissa’s story is happening centuries ago, she still faces issues that contemporary children have to deal with.”—Jill Jemmett

“With the poetry of Aissa’s thoughts combined with all of the other elements of story, this would be a rich classroom experience.”—Kiss the Book

“This is one of those books that I can’t believe we almost missed….Wow – this is really something….The book was part prose and part poetic narrative and was beautifully done.”—Reading by the Pond

“[A] well written, interesting read and one that has introduced me to a good author I will keep an eye on.”—The Insect Hotel Library


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