Set in the early 1900s, Wild Song tells the story of Luki: A headstrong teenager, who lives with her tribe, the Bontok, in the mountains of the Philippines. She is the fiercest hunter in her community, better even than her best friend Samkad. Expected to become a wife and a mother, Luki isn’t ready to give up her dream of becoming a warrior. When American soldier Tom Hunt – who has stayed behind after the U.S. purchases the Philippines as a colony – offers to take Luki to America to be part of the St Louis World Fair, she jumps at the chance to escape. However, arriving in America after a long and difficult journey, she discovers that instead of embarking on an exciting adventure, she and her companions are expected to humiliate themselves as exhibits in a human zoo, recreating their rituals and customs to entertain the American public. Luki must find a way to stay true to herself as she discovers Hunt’s real, even darker motive for transporting her to America.

A thrilling and tragic adventure, Wild Song is vividly told from Luki’s point of view as she relates her story to the spirit of her dead mother, with Candy Gourlay’s writing immersing the reader in the extraordinary narrative.

Based on real events, Wild Song describes a dark and little-known chapter of history. Luki’s story will inspire while also serving as a reminder of the ways people viewed as different, and ‘less than’ continue to be treated with contempt.

Want to know more? We’ve created a reading guide for this book – just click here.


Candy Gourlay is a Filipino author based in London. Her debut novel Tall Story won the Crystal Kite Prize for Europe and the National Book Award in the Philippines. It was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for 13 prizes including the Blue Peter, the Waterstones Prize and the Branford Boase. When she’s not blogging, Candy loves taking photographs and making videos. 

Photography © Aashfaria A. Anwar

This is an unflinching and uncompromising account of womanhood, racism and conformity – as well as simply being a rollicking good read.’ 

2023 Children’s Fiction judges

Urmi Merchant

Dave Rudden

Nick Sheridan

Other books shortlisted in this category: