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Originally, this tiny fable was intended to be substantially illustrated by British artist David Hockney, but the picture-book format has faded away--and so has any ostensible reason for publishing such a flimsy whimsy as an adult book. The setting is vaguely 19th-century New England (though really more pseudo-Dickensian), and the hero is little orphan William, who--along with mute brother Jules--is raised by cruel, selfish Uncle and Aunt Carbuncle; the boys' only inheritance from their unknown father is a dulcimer, which William soon plays brilliantly, singing his own inborn songs--""as if he had known the words since the day he was born."" However, when Mr. Carbuncle falls on hard times and plans to hock the dulcimer, penniless William runs off to New York, where he's so eager to sing for his supper that he signs a harsh contract with an explorative innkeeper. His subsequent efforts to get away and return to Jules are aided by a mysterious sailor (who knows William's inborn song!); and, finding himself back with the now-impoverished, still-hideous Carbuncles, William (along with Jules) is finally rescued by the Mayor of New York, a fan of William's dulcimer shows at the inn. And at the fadeout, William sets off to find that mysterious sailor. . . . Derivative and bland by juvenile standards; for adults, an embarrassing would-be boutique item with neither the pretty pictures nor the idiotic uplift-appeal of Richard Bach.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1979
Publisher: Viking