The Song Walker

Zillah Bethell

Usborne (9+) 9781474966856 (Paperback)

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Tarni encounters a city girl alone in the outback as she undertakes a mysterious voyage to find her sister.  Who is she and where has she come from?  There is a clever musical thread as Tarni uses ancient songs to guide them and uses the survival skills she has learnt.   The pair embark on an epic journey through the landscape of the outback and also through memory and culture.  The mystery of one girl’s identity unravels slowly as the story of friendship, dreamtime and spirituality unfolds.

Carefully honed writing lifts the heat, dust and stark landscape of the outback from the page.  Character dialogue and interaction is realistic and they grow as the story progresses.  Cultural references to First Country Australians’ beliefs and experiences are exceptionally strong in their meaning and are sensitively handled.    The girls undertake a physical journey that is entwined with a metaphorical and emotional journey of discovery.  There are moments of revelation and the story broaches issues around identity, discrimination, representation of culture and loss in ways that stimulate empathy and understanding.  Immersive, memorable storytelling makes readers feel involved throughout in this epic mystery.

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Zillah Bethell

Zillah Bethel was born in the shadow of the volcano Mount Lamington in Papa new Guinea. She grew up without shoes, toys or technology. Consequently she spent a lot of time in the sea swimming and in canoes. Zillah’s family returned to the UK when she was 10, and she now lives and walks in the hills of South Wales.

Shadowers' reviews and artwork

The song walker might be a contender to win for me, throughout the book I was on the edge of my seat and waiting for the next exciting moment to happen near. The plot and structure was amazing and the character might be my favourite apart from Kofi from the door of no return. But overall I Rate this book a 9/10, a brilliant book.

Oliver S


I really enjoyed this book and thought the storyline was very good, it always left me wanting to know what happens next. Overall i would rate this book 9 out of 10.

Henry K


This book was amazing and the story line was great.There were so many secrets and hidden easter eggs to find throughout the adventure to find out at the end that the people in the jeep were nasty ghosts and everybody that Tarni had met were all just friendly ghosts guiding her to her sister. This was a great book and I would recommend this book if you like cliffhanger and secret stories to read. I really enjoyed this and is a fantastic book.

Joshua R


This book is unlike any other I have read. Usually the main character always knows who they are. However in this book the main character has no idea who she is or where she is. I quite enjoyed how in each chapter little snippets are revealed about Siena which you can piece together. I did think that the book was a bit slow at times because most chapters are just Siena and Tarni just walking and the occasional memory re-surfacing. Overall I really enjoyed this book and it is the best Carnegie book I have read (so far).

Yusuf K


I read the book called The Song Walker by Zillah Bethell. It is a story written in a way that makes it easy to read and take in what the storyline is about. It is set in modern-day Australia. At the start off the book, a girl, who does not know her name, age, or anything for that matter, wakes up in the middle of nowhere. She later finds out that she is in the heart of the Australian outback or “The Bush.” After a nice nap, she is rudely awoken by a strange girl in blue dungarees. This unlikely double act soon gets to know each other and make the everlasting journey to find civilization and this strange girl's sister. Throughout the way they face difficulties: starvation, dehydration, and attempted kidnapping at a gun's point. Eventually, they reach a town and realise that a lot of this adventure was just spiritual hallucinations. My favourite thing about the book is: if you stick to something, you can always achieve your goals. I would personally recommend it for readers 11+.

Zackary WF


In my opinion, The Song Walker was a very good and interesting read. It clearly showed how two very different people can become best of friends, even when they go through multiple hardships together, fighting to survive an extreme environment and events that threatened their existence. The story was about two girls travelling the Northern Territory; one trying to find her sister and the other trying to find herself. The unexpected twist was when most of the beings they met on their journey turned out to be spirits of the Australian outback.

Sebastian H


This book greatly attracts people’s attention. It is filled with adventure and thrills about a girl who lost her memory and is trying to find her identity on her path.



I really enjoyed reading 'The Song Walker'. It is a book that is heart-breaking as well as heart-warming. The reader feels very confused throughout the book, even until near the end. At the start of the book, I felt some things were randomly written or placed in the book, but you definitely understand it all when the book comes to an end. I think it is shown really well how two completely different strangers meet, Tarni and Sienna. At the start, Sienna relies on Tarni to keep her safe, and by the middle of the book, Tarni and Sienna both rely on each other. My favourite part of the book was when Sienna found out her name, then all her memories came flooding back to her. I definitely would rate this book a 10/10


Rebel Readers

I enjoyed how the story progressed through the book and how Sienna's name changed with every major event. I also liked how at the end Candelabra symbolised Brindabell when it flew off. i didn't really like the ending as it was very confusing and made the rest of the story feel a bit strange when you think that it was just her soul walking the entire time. Overall i would give it a 8/10



This book was structured amazingly, and had a great plot and story line. I really liked that at the start Moonflower didn't know anything about herself and discovered herself as she carried on her adventure. I really liked how the author has used Moonflowers' dreams to kind of give her an insight into who she was before the accident, without clearly giving it away, and making her interpret these dreams in a different way. Personally, I really enjoyed this book and I am pleased that it has made it onto the shortlist. This book is a must read if you like books with suspense, drama and action and also if you don't enjoy those topics, this book will no doubt make you enjoy them. This is a must buy, I would give it a solid 8 out of ten; some points in the book weren't clear about what was going on and this made it a bit harder to understand. Other than that, this book is great !


Wymondham Book Wizards

I thought it was a great book, as I enjoyed the adventure element of the book and the storyline, If it was to be better, I think it should of had been a few more chapters in the book but other than that, I really enjoyed it and would recommend it and read it again 🙂


Paulet Readers

This book is a marvel of environmental worldbuilding as the culture and feel of the Australian outback is propelled from ink to mind in a vividly enduring way. The protagonist's amnesia about her own life that flashes periodically reminds me of Project Hail Mary (Another amazing book), It creates a sense of story progression that extends both forward and backwards in time. Truly a must read 9/10

Theo U

VISTA Academy

I really enjoyed this book, I thought it was very clever the way that who the girl was got clearer and clearer as the book went on. This was one of those books that once I'd read the first bit I wanted to read the next bit. I learnt a lot about the Australian First Country and it helped me think about another world totally separate to mine. I loved the characters of Tarni and "Moonflower" and thought the author, Zillah Bethell, got the characters just right. The ending also made me think for a long time about the book. I'd recommend this to any keen reader.

Aidan M


It’s soooo good. I really love the type of story of what the story is about and there’s always words written in attalic when the characters in the book are thinking about something or something extreme happens or a dream. I don’t think the ending was that good because it didn’t really match to what the whole story was about, I was expecting it to be way better but overall I’d definitely give it a 9.5/10.


Herts and Essex

This book is about a girl who is lost in the Australian Outback and can't remember anything about her past life. She is found by a girl named Tarni who is a first country person exploring the outback with her pet bird called candelabra. This book was in my opinion a great book. All of the story was very interesting and I liked how it was sectioned up into parts and then chapters. I also liked the fact that the author used words used in Australia and how some of the dialogue was written in a way that told you that Tarni has a strong Australian accent. The only downside was that the ending of the book was a little confusing and I had to read it more than once to understand what was going on. I would recommend this book to people who are funny and enjoy a little bit of suspense that can also be comical at times and I would also say that it should be read by children age 11 up because of some of the topics that it deals with. Overall I would give this book 8/10, the only thing that let it down was the ending.


The Fitzharrys Shadows

The Song Walker was a really fantastic book that quite literally brought tears to my eyes. The way the main character developed as the story progressed really inspired me. Usually, I find the symbolism in stories rather annoying, but Bethell does a fantastic job of making it understandable. This story was also very thought provocative, leading to an even deeper understanding of the character's lives and the authors intentions. On the other hand, I would have preferred it if we knew slightly more about how the main character and her friend turned out as we didn't really get a lot of detail as to what happened. Overall, I really enjoyed this book as the characters were my age and while they were relatable, they were completely different to what I would have expected. I would definitely recommend this book!


Brooke Weston Book Busters

Really cool story which makes you question every word you read as well an incredible and unexpected ending


Oxted Carnegie Group

It's a good book but a slow start to it


Sir Harry’s Shadowers

The Song Walker was a really fabulous book. It showed a beautiful friendship growing from two strangers. I really enjoyed reading this book and I love that it showed different aspects of the Australian outback. This book also focused on finding her sister. I think that it was very thrilling.


Kingdown 24

I really enjoyed this book, but it isn't the type of book I would usually go for. It was very well written and had such good plot twists that you wouldn't expect. I love their friendship and the fact that one girl is looking for her sister and one is looking for herself.


Kingdown 24

I really enjoyed this book, wonderfully engaging and fast paced. Interesting characters and plot made this a really good read.


St Kaths

The song walker was a very interesting book. I liked the mystery at the beginning, and how memories gradually unfolded as she began to realise who she was. I also enjoyed the Australian culture parts, and how the two girls began to make friends along their journey. However, I didn't particularly like the twist at the end. But overall I would definitely recommend this book.


High Storrs Carnegie Shadowing Group

'The Song Walker' is a very passionate, spiritual, mysterious and captivating read that envelopes the concept of friendship, identity and dealing with grief. The author did a fantastic job at describing the danger and beauty of the outback, whilst relating to grief and it was overall a fantastic book.


The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

The book "The songwalker" in my opinion is a good book. I really like how the author Zillah Bethell shines a light on the stolen generations of Australia. But I found the ending confusing and it felt unconnected to the rest of the book. Furthermore I didn't like how the items given to Sienna and Tarni all disappeared at the end as that raises many more questions than it answers. But overall it is a good book excluding the ending.



I really liked this book. I liked how the birds were singing and how it had a different language and the songs were in a different language.


The Reading Queens

This an excellent story about two girls, one searching for a missing sister and another finding herself and her legacy again. Their bond grows throughout the story, facing the problems and the lies. The plot twists are immaculate and can't be seen coming. This is an amazing adventure book with emotions built inside it.


Reepham Readers

I enjoyed this book the plot was interesting and the quest to find her sister was thrilling. However, I didn't understand the whole " Tarni's sister is dead" thing



I really enjoyed this book as it has a great representation of Australian outback culture. The book was full of excitement and puzzles. I would recommend it to readers of ages 9-14.



I think that this book was well written and interesting but i think that it was not really my sort of thing. I didnt really think it was an amazing story for me but it was very well written



Loved this book! What a read! The best so far for me (I have read 5 at this point). The tale of 2 strangers and their budding friendship. The writing takes you on a journey with the girls - not just reading it, but seeing it. Ever step is taken with them. When a young girl wakes up in the middle of the desert, she has no idea who or where she is. She meets Tarni who is on a quest to find her sister. Together, they navigate the Australian Outback using songs that Tarni and her ancestors have been singing for thousands of years. They meet a variety of characters along the way. beautifully written and very engaging! Oh and the illustrations are gorgeous too!

Mrs Allsopp

The Reading Queens

The Song Walker is about two girls journey across the outback, and their minds. I really liked this book because of the amazing narrative and basis in 1st country folklore. I also liked the representation of candelabra (the bird) in his cage and when he was set free, so was siennas spirit.However, I thought that it was an unsatisfactory ending.

Caiden o

VISTA Academy

'The Song Walker' is a captivating book which has amazing plot twists and is always intriguing. In 'The Song Walker', you can feel the characters' feelings and the writer allows for the reader's imagination to explore the book and characters further. In the first half of the book, it is a very slow read but the second half is very captivating and exciting to read.


The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

I LOVE songwalker I can see why it has been chosen. There is this girl who one day wakes up forgetting everything about her life, why she is here what her name is - not a single memory stayed. She meets a girl names Tarni. They are on a quest to find her sister who ran away from home and the girl find out about herself slowly through the book, but is the truth to hard to bear?


The Reading Queens

Amazing, I couldn't put it down, it was the best book I've read for ages!



An incredible, addictive book about self-discovery and honouring your past, filled with jaw-dropping plot twists and a beautiful story-line. This book takes on two very difficult topics throughout, managing to weave them into an elegant and fascinating plot, exploring loss of other people as well as loss of your own identity. The unique culture, harrowing journey and enthralling mystery, as well as the stunningly unexpected ending, made this book extremely interesting to read and I would definitely recommend it.



The Song Walker, by Zillah Bethell, is a gripping, page-turning novel about a girl who finds herself in the Australian Outback and how she can rediscover her identity. She has only one shoe, and is carrying a mysterious, locked briefcase. She meets another girl, Tarni, who is also in the desert as she is on her own mysterious quest. I loved the book, as it so vividly described the desert setting, and Bethell explores many ideas like trust and relationship. Overall, it is a great book, with many twists and turns, and I could not recommend it more!


MTS Northwood

To me this book has a good insight into the culture of Australian first country people and I really enjoyed the story of the violinist of many names who went with Tarni. However, to me the end didn't make much sense and really confused me even after reading it over three times. Still I loved this book and it was really intriguing.


SHS On The Same Page

The Song Walker is an absolutely stunning and deeply moving story a story of friendship of courage and of hope set in the beauty of the australian outback that had a lot of mystery



When a young girl wakes up , alone in the desert she doesn’t know who she is or where she is . As she travels across the desert , with a new friend , she has to discover her true identity… I really enjoyed this book because the characters had great personalities that were fun to explore . There were lots of twists and turns in the plot that kept me intrigued. However , towards the end there are quite large plot twists that can get a bit confusing . Finally , I would recommend this book to anyone who likes adventure .


VISTA Academy

The Song Walker This book has an nice story behind it, leading to an enjoyable read. The idea of an unknown backstory will have helped to intrigue the reader throughout this book as it is well written and lets out the correct information at the correct time. The plot was mainly simple and undramatic but was well developed. Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the character development as there are extremely few characters in this book due to the focus on Sienna and Tarni. The book centres around their relationship and how their bond grows throughout their journey through the outback. This is presented well as there are many other things to think about such as the plot and ending yet it is still given the attention it needed which is why it stood out to me. Something that disappointed me however, is in the middle of the book where nothing is really going on and it feels like the author just wanted to add a few more words in as it was mainly completely irrelevant dialogue. Off that topic, in the epilogue, the setting, idea and character adaptation all perfectly continued Sienna and Tarni’s story which started at the same standard. This led to an excellent finish to the book. Overall, this book seemed like the average book; there were some stand out parts and some disappointing parts but mainly just some solid chunks of writing and a good finish. Score: Characters:18/20 Plot:16/20 Inspiration:16/20



A sweet book about friendship and pushing through hardships, and also trust. I would rate this book 62/70, the reason being it didn't have much character description or action, and also the part where they trek through the desert is a bit boring as it is quite samey each day. Overall a good book that I would recommend to readers that like a seemingly lighthearted story with a dark twist.


Skipton Shadows

I really enjoyed the Song Walker as I always liked the Australian Outback and this taught me more about it that I did not know. This book was interesting as at the end everything that happened turned out to be a spirit. What I did not understand was if Sienna was a spirit or not. I loved how Tarni and "Tinna" were still friends after they fell out and both pursued their separate passions together.

James W-B


this book is amazing. one of my favorites.



I liked this book more than the others. It had a nice plot and a conclusive end. My favourite part was when she finally found out who she was. My least favourite thing was how she constantly changed names.

Hasan i


I thought that this book was full of emotion and good characters and is a great read for younger students. Would definitely recommend.


St Kaths

This book was an interesting read - I liked how the plot thickened as more and more information was gained, and the unprecedented twists that came with the characters' revelations. I especially liked the duality of the book's title, having both a metaphorical and literal meaning to it. Overall, this book was amazing and exceeded my expectations with its story and the depth of its characters!



Amazing It is awesome


Sir Harry’s Shadowers

I loved this book. Its take on religion is something I've never seen before. It's about a young girl who is found in the middle of the Outback with no idea who or where she is. Throughout the book it references ancestors and elders frequently; the culture does not address a dead person by name but by a placeholder term. The ending for me was extremely impactful and changed the way I thought about the book. I loved the detailed description of the landscape and frequently repeated moments ('left, right, left, right'). Overall, this book was brilliant and a strong candidate for the winner.


The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

I think that this is the best Carnegie book I have read this year, I like that it has a focus on adventure and it isn't a typical love story which is good but at the end i was wishing that it didn't end as it did as it pretty much made the whole story irrelevant and without the epilogue it would have been a lot worse.



This book is amazing! It starts off very simple, but as it progresses, the plot grows deeper, without losing the reader. The Alaywarre culture shown in the book is beautifully represented, and explained, while not taking away from the story. However, I did find that the ending may be a bit confusing for some readers. Altogether, this book is full of mystery, great characters and colourful Australian culture!

Edward L


I like this book because of how unique it is. In my opinon the mystery is the thing that actually kept me interested in the story. I liked how the book gave you a clear idea of Tarn and her friend's personality. I give this a 8/10



'The Song Walker' was a good book. Here are some good and bad points from my view. Bad Points: The plot could have been simpler. Good Points: It had a good plot. Easy to understand what is happening. Gives hints through out the book about the ending. Overall, I really liked 'The Song Walker' and think it is a really good book. I would recommend to others.


The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

The song walker is a brilliant read. It highlights one of the world's most under-represented traditions in the allyaware and shows the incredible tradition of living with one of the most unforgiveable lands in the world. I also loved the way it brought two people from vastly different lives and created an amazing friendship. It is a journey that is one in two; Sienna's is one of remembering who she is, whilst Tarni goes through the stages of grief, whilst they both journey down the dreampaths of the ancestors songs. great book 5/5 for me.



This book has very interesting characters and an enthralling mystery. The humour is entertaining and within the first few chapters, you can get a clear idea of both Tarn and her friends personality. The mystery kept me invested till the end of the story.


FPHS Reading Crew

Well written book. Brings together two girls who are strangers and are around the same age. One girl is rich and the other is poor. However both girls build a close bond, despite having completely different upbringings. There is a surprising twist towards the end.


Greenford High CSG

I really liked this book. I think the way Sienna developed throughout the book was great. I think the ending was shocking but I liked how Tarni became an artist and how their friendship progressed through the book.


The St. Bede’s Literary Critics

Incredible story that shows the struggles of not knowing where you are and also the friendships that can be formed on the fly when both parties are struggling. The use of indigenous peoples is really interesting as well as educational. Would definitely recommend.

Sam S


This was a very unique story about a girl who had lost all her memories about who she was and had somehow ended up in the middle of an Australian desert. I really enjoyed this book and the ending was very plot twisting. I would rate this book a 9/10



This was a very peculiar book about a random girl in the middle of the Outback discovering who she really was and then wanting to change how she behaved. I liked the dynamic between her and Tarni who was also on a journey.