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SYLVIE AND THE SONGMAN by Tim Binding Kirkus Star


by Tim Binding and illustrated by Angela Barrett

Age Range: 9 - 12

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-385-75157-5
Publisher: David Fickling/Random

This finely tuned adventure opens with William Blake’s “The Tyger” and lives up to that reference in surprisingly accessible ways. Sylvie lives with her composer father and “comfortable, obstinate dog” Mr Jackson. They miss mum, who disappeared into the ocean. Practicing for a concert of his invented instruments, dad and Sylvie strike converging musical notes that seem literally to explode, flinging Sylvie into the garden. The next day, dad disappears. The quietly sublime prose calls no attention to itself as Sylvie and stolid friend George, aided by a fox, bravely set out to reclaim dad from the Songman. The Songman steals voices from animals—zoo animals, wild animals, pets—but Binding gives them delicate voice inside Sylvie’s mind. Mr Jackson’s thoughts, especially, shoot straight to the heart. Barrett’s mostly spare, elegant drawings haunt the pages: Animals scatter off edges; an owl flies from the gutter. An unfortunate early reference—to the villainous Woodpecker Man’s “black” fingers and hands before readers know he’s not human—aside, this is an exceptionally honed story with levels of depth. (Fantasy. 9-12)