The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree

By Lucille Abendanon

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Batavia, Dutch East Indies, 1942.

Emmy has the voice of an angel but hasn’t sung a note since a family tragedy. With war looming, her father plans to ship her off to a singing school in England for safety. But all Emmy wants to do is stay in Batavia with her best friend, Bakti, even if it means putting up with her snooty classmate, Violet. Then the Japanese army invades—and as war erupts in the Dutch East Indies, Emmy’s world falls apart.

When her own actions sabotage her chance to evacuate the island, Emmy is captured and confined in the Tjideng prisoner-of-war camp with other women and children. Separated from her family and friends, and silenced by her grief, Emmy will need all her strength to survive the war, find her voice, and reclaim her freedom.

About the Author

Lucille Abendanon has always lived a life on the move. When she was twelve, she swapped the English countryside for the tropical east coast of South Africa. Since then, she has been fortunate to call many places home—from the magic of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, to the wonders of Bangkok; from the minarets of Istanbul to the canals of the Netherlands. She now lives back in the United Kingdom with her husband, three boys, and three chickens beneath the branches of an ancient oak. She has three nationalities, which makes the question “where are you from?” difficult to answer. Lucille holds an MA in International Studies, and when she’s not writing books, she writes about living abroad and raising multicultural kids on the move. The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree is her debut novel and is inspired by a lifetime of conversations with her Oma Emmy, who was a prisoner of war in the Tjideng internment camp during World War II.

  • Paperback ISBN: 9781631638206
  • Ebook ISBN: 9781631638213
  • Reading Age: from 10 to 15 years
  • Interest Age: from 10 to 14 years
  • Paperback dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in
  • Publication date: Jan 23, 2024
  • Rights/Sales territory: Worldwide
  • Format: Paperback | Ebook
  • Pages: 320
  • Lexile: 690L
  • Imprint: Jolly Fish Press
  • Subjects:
    JUVENILE FICTION / Historical / Military & Wars

Reviews of The Songbird and the Rambutan Tree:

"[E]ngaging narrative that broadens readers’ understanding of the geographic reach of World War II." —Kirkus Reviews

“Steady pacing and well-developed characters with credible flaws round out this harrowing, high-stakes tale, based on Abendanon’s grandmother’s experiences.” —Publishers Weekly

“Abendanon has written a searing story of captivity, based loosely on her own grandmother's life, that is notable for its verisimilitude and vivid setting. It brings history to life.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Abendanon brings a whole new perspective for readers who clamor for WWII stories, such as Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life . . . . An absolute must-have in all middle grade collections.” —School Library Journal (starred review)

“Abendanon presents the nuances of colonialism through the eyes of a child initially unaware of her privilege until it is taken away. Through Javanese secondary characters, readers see the growing resistance to colonial occupation, whether by the Netherlands or Japan. Within the camp, Emmy emerges as a strong presence as she takes on leadership roles, confronts the guilt she feels for the accident that led to her mother’s death, and rediscovers her joy in singing. Readers will cheer for her during her journey to herself in the worst of times.” —Historical Novel Society

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