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Sylvie and the Songman by Tim Binding

Sylvie and the Songman

by Tim Binding

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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. ( )
  yearningtoread | Nov 24, 2011 |
Sylvie lives with her father, a somewhat eccentric composer and inventor, and her dog, Mr Jackson, who has lost his bark. When Sylvie’s father disappears: Sylvie, Mr Jackson and Sylvie’s friend, George, go looking for him. Their only clue is a picture drawn in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror. They soon discover that the terrifying Woodpecker man is looking for them in his balloon and an old fox becomes their ally.
Full of music and magic this story has an unusual story line featuring a very likeable heroine encountering some pretty scary situations. Suitable for readers, especially girls, aged 9 and up. ( )
  RefPenny | Apr 29, 2011 |
Illustrated beautifully. Good atmospheric scary bits. Cf Neil Gaiman. ( )
  luey | Feb 24, 2011 |
Tim Binding’s book Sylvie and the Songman is a unique tale that explores the power of music. When Sylvie’s father disappears and the birds and animals all begin to lose their voices, Sylvie knows that it is up to her to unravel the mystery and rescue her Dad. George, her best friend, comes along and it does not take long before the dangers of their adventure threaten their safety. The sinister Woodpecker man and his cohorts are hunting them down so they must find refuge with the animals. Sylvie discovers her innate ability to communicate to animals and her special affinity to a fox. These abilities prove useful in their quest to overcome the evil Songman and foil his plan.

Sylvie and the Songman was an interesting novel with an unusual story. The plot was complex enough to be interesting to older children and adolescents. Sylvie was a likable character who was courageous and intelligent. I also liked the sinister characters. They helped to create the dangerous and mysterious atmosphere in the book. Tim Binding’s novel evidenced an appreciation for nature. His portrayal of animals was very creative. The pencil drawings also added to the enjoyment of the story. I would recommend it because of its complex themes and somewhat bizarre storyline. It is a great example of a creative and unique work of children's literature. ( )
  Jemima79 | Dec 9, 2009 |
Reviewed by Theresa L. Stowell for TeensReadToo.com

Thirteen-year-old Sylvie Bartram's father is not just any musician in SYLVIE AND THE SONGMAN by Tim Binding. Daniel Bartram is an inventor and composer whose search for that one perfect note leads to more trouble than anyone could have imagined.

One night, father and daughter experiment with his homemade instruments and hit an unusual note. The next day, Sylvie comes home from school to find that her father is missing and a mysterious message is on the bathroom mirror. The novel traces Sylvie's and her best friend George's adventures as they set off on a quest to find him.

Daniel's note seems to have drawn the attention of the Songman, a mysterious figure who has been stealing the voices of animals. As Sylvie and George search for her father, they must elude The Drummers, a strange old couple who are able to control behavior through the rhythmic beats they create, and the Woodpecker Man. The Woodpecker Man travels in a hot air balloon pulled by swans and accompanied by myriads of green and red birds.

Sylvie is aided by Mr. Jackson, her much-loved dog who has lost his voice, and a friendly fox who gives her the ability to understand the language of animals. Sylvie discovers that animals communicate in ways that are much different than humans, and their understanding of the world can help her to see the things around her differently, as well.

The adventure undertaken by these two children opens their hearts to realizations that though the adults around them are motivated by a variety of actions which the children do not always see, their parents' love for them is never out of reach. The novel is a lovely story of friendship, love, and belonging.

Alongside Binding's captivating text, Angela Barrett's beautiful illustrations bring the characters and story to life. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 21, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385751575, Hardcover)

A compelling story full of magic and music.

Sylvie Bartram lives alone with Mr. Jackson the dog and her eccentric composer father, who invents strange and wonderful musical instruments. One day she returns from school to find a message left in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror: her father has been kidnapped. Later that night, the house is visited by a terrifying apparition—a half-man, half-creature who is searching for something and will not rest until he has found it. . . .

Sylvie uncovers an underground world of magic and evil, and with help from her friends, she must hold off a power that threatens the lives of all beings in the world. The Songman is at large, and is determined to steal music and use it for his own evil ends. . . .

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Sylvie Bartram's beloved dog, Mr. Jackson, has lost his bark. The birds have stopped singing. And in the growing silence, her dad has disappeared. Determined to find him, Sylvie and her best friend, kite-flying, tone deaf George, are drawn into the nightmare world of the Songman, a world haunted by the terrifying Woodpecker Man in his swan-powered balloon, a world where nothing can sing and no one can speak. Only Sylvie can save the earth from its terrible voiceless fate."--Dust jacket.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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