Shortlist year: 2017

Shortlist category: Children's literature

Published by: Allen & Unwin


Abandoned by the priestess of the island at birth, Aissa is an outcast, surviving by her wits - until she joins the acrobatic bull dancers who are sent away to compete on the island of the Bull King. A gripping and powerful adventure by acclaimed author Wendy Orr.

About the author

Wendy Orr

Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Canada, but grew up in various places across Canada, France and the USA. She started writing for children after a career as an occupational therapist. She's the author of many award-winning books, including Nim's IslandNim at SeaRaven's Mountain and Peeling the Onion.

Judges’ comments

In a breathtaking blend of stunning verse and poetic prose, this tragic tale of loss and abandonment, courage and resilience tells the story of Aissa the firstborn child of the Lady. Born with a minor imperfection, Aissa is shunned by the Lady, but spared by Keyla, the wise-woman, and given to a family far away. Tragedy stalks Aissa though and four years later raiders kill her adopted family, and she is an outcast once more. Enslaved, mute, considered cursed and shown to be worthless, she is given the name of No-Name. But when Aissa turns thirteen, she seizes upon the unexpected opportunity to become the island’s female tribute to the Bull King. No tribute has ever returned to the island, but for Aissa this dangerous “honour” represents her only means of escape.

Set in Bronze Age Crete, impeccably researched and inspired by the legend of the Minotaur, the ancient culture depicted is richly imagined and realised. Aissa is a wonderfully complex character, whose struggles take the reader on an epic journey, exploring themes of acceptance and rejection, perfectionism, difference and worthiness, identity and resilience.

Dragonfly Song is more than an ancient myth re-visioned. Its songlike narrative is poignant and wise, brave and ambitious. Quite simply, it is storytelling at its very best.