It's a nice conceit that's strung out here to the length of a book: in a dream, the king hears a bird sing ""the most beautiful song [he] had ever heard""--which turns out to be not the song of the lark, the thrush, etc. that the king's young birdcatcher brings back, but the song the birdcatcher himself plays on his flute. And some of these spare, filmy, jewel-toned pictures are independently quite compelling: the birdcatcher crouching behind a grove of saplings, waiting to throw his net over an unsuspecting thrush; or tripping along a battlement, or gently placing a wren inside his cage. And at times--the final celebration, the birdcatcher freed to go out into the world--they combine the delicacy of miniatures and the deep perspectives of the surreal. But together text and pictures constitute merely a minor-key diversion, insubstantial and evanescent.