Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding

All is not well in London, England. Sylvie has noticed that the birds refuse to whistle, and her own dog, Mr. Jackson, apparently has lost his bark. The fox she always sees from the train isn't on his platform, watching her pass. Her father, Daniel, a creative musician who builds and plays his own insturments, has just discovered an entirely new note. Shortly afterward, he disappears, leaving only an eye drawn on the bathroom mirror with toothpaste to give Sylvie a clue to work with. Sylvie and her friend George must find Daniel and figure out why the world has stopped singing - and all the while running from the evil Woodpecker Man and his master.

Buying this book was a gamble: I hadn't heard anything about it, but it looked too good to pass up. (I don't normally just buy books because nowadays, unless I've read them from the library and just have to have them on my shelf.) Sylvie and the Songman definitely could have gone either way, but I was willing to take the chance.

It was amazing. I read it once last December, and I just finished it for the second time. What a ride! It's full of mystery, interesting (and sometimes scary) characters, and a fascinating battle between good and evil. The Songman is a psychological and puzzling man, worthy of note. His helper (one of those wicked characters who, even though he works for someone, isn't actually bound to that person) is the Woodpecker Man, a frightful character who flies in a balloon pulled by swans, surrounded by green woodpeckers. Then there's Rabbit-tooth and the Knitting woman. Daniel and Sylvie and George themselves are masterpieces. Daniel is still saddened by the loss of his wife, but loves Sylvie and wants her to be happy. Sylvie and George make quite a duo: Sylvie is quiet and curious, while George is proud and ambitious. They work well together and emit a wonderful sense of loyalty throughout the book.

Tim Binding is a very talented writer. His style forms this story into what it is - a beautiful piece of prose, a wonderful work of the English language. And I can tell you now... You'll never see woodpeckers the same again.

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