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by Joan Aiken & illustrated by Alan Lee

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0394993802
Publisher: Knopf

In a lengthy, fantastical tale for middle grades presented as a picture book, Aiken employs familiar folkloric motifs. Seventh son of a seventh son, Sep longs to be a violinist and gets his wish by following mysterious advice that emanates from the family clock: he throws seven shoes at the moon. But there's a price: the moon, angered by its dirty face, wills him shoeless for seven yeats; worse, his baby sister is born dumb. As the years pass, Sep finds his violin can charm such perils as a mad dog; when a fearsome dragon appears, his playing succeeds in diminishing it into oblivion, and the spell is broken. Aiken's pungent prose serves her odd, derivative tale fairly well, though it lacks both the humor and the eerie sensibility she has achieved so well elsewhere; Lee's illustrations are satisfyingly evocative of the dragon and a rocky coast that might be Cornwall once upon a time (he's especially proficient at portraying a misty distance or the inner surface of a giant wave); but although their content draws the reader in, their composition and hues lack interest. An attractive book that promises more depth than it delivers.