Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding

sylvie What a fabulous book!  Chapter One starts with poor Sylvie trying to memorize the famous Willliam Blake poem “Tyger”

Tyger, Tyger, burning bright,/In the forest of the night:/What immortal hand or eye,/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”

“The first lines of the poem seemed straightforward enough, the tiger with his bright shining eyes prowling through the jungle, but she couldn’t get her head round the second half too well.  Immortal hand –what did that mean?  And symmetry? She’d never even heard of the word.  But despite it all, it did make a sort of sense, this fabulous beast with its great rippling body and huge padded paws.”  And speaking of symmetry, the book begins and ends with the tyger/tiger.  Sylvie’s life is on a trajectory to bring her into direct opposition to the Songman, who plans to take over the world and gain dominance over all animals –and eventually humans too –by taking away their voices.  There’s only one animal that’s been able to resist his control, and guess what it is?  The tiger. Sylvie’s father is a composer who also invents bizarre instruments for his compositions: the Furroughla, the Shinglechord, the Featherblow, and one night when Sylvie is helping him practice, something bizarre happens. The instruments sort of take on a life of their own, creating a huge, booming vibration, which causes sort of a seismic shift in the world.  The Songman is instantly aware of what has happened, and the next day he kidnaps Sylvie’s dad to make him tell the secret.  The book is about music –the power of music to transform our lives (just look how the Songman entrances Sylvie by singing her own song to her, the song of her life, that is so sweet that she will give up almost anything to hear it again).  It’s also about animals and how important they are to our lives.  Sylvie loves her old dog, Mr. Jackson, and after a fox (who is actually supposed to help her save the world from the Songman) bites her, she can hear his voice (“seeyoulaterMrJackson seeyoulater Who‘salovelyboythen who’salovelyboy”). This is a classic good vs evil story, and though you can count on good to triumph in the end, there’s plenty of excitement along the way.  Review by Stacy Church

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