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Matthew and the Sea Singer Hardcover – April, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-4-- Young Birdy pays the orphan master her birthday shilling to rescue a raggedy boy named Matthew. The next morning, she is amazed to hear the lad singing a song without words, too beautiful to be believed. The parson agrees to tutor him to sing Sunday music and soon his angelic voice is enchanting the village folk and all living creatures. When Matthew disappears, Birdy suspects that he has been stolen. She calls the seal-queen, a "half-and-half kind" of creature, up from the sea and strikes a hard bargain with her--the parson must teach one of her pups to sing in return for Matthew's release. It's a struggle transporting the reluctant student to the church and instructing him. When Pagan finally sings, his song conjures up all things dark and terrifying, but is nonetheless beautiful. Together Matthew and Pagan's voices produce a sound so wondrous that listeners can grasp the whole world in their minds. The lyrical text evokes the music of the sea, as do the half-page watercolor paintings in shades of aqua, blue, and shell tones alternating with fog gray. And, in the best folklore tradition, there is a satisfying happy ending to this lovely, quiet story. --Virginia Opocensky, formerly at Lincoln City Libraries, NE
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

``Once there was a little girl called Birdy who paid a shilling for a living boy,'' begins this enchanting embroidery on the lore of selkies and other fairy creatures, sequel to Birdy and the Ghosties (1989). Though Birdy doesn't ``hold with'' buying a child, she saves Matthew--stunted and hungry--from the ``orphan master''; then, when the parson offers to pay for him and train his lovely voice for the choir, she refuses the shilling and sends him for free--a good thing, too, since when the seal-queen steals Matthew, she must, by the laws of human and fairy trade, give him back on demand. Still, the queen won't part with him, so Birdie strikes a bargain: the parson will train one of her pups to sing as beautifully as Matthew. So he does, though what to feed ``Pagan,'' or where to keep him (the answer--the church font--causes ``a scandal''), is a problem. Finally, Pagan's music--``terrible...[but] as beautiful as great tempests on stormy waters, or the love of the living for the dead'' is joined with Matthew's celestial singing like ``the whole creation'' before Matthew is released and Pagan returns to the sea. Lucid, graceful, and miraculously spare (in a few lines, four characters are epitomized with more insight than some authors achieve in an entire novel), the lively narrative alternates entrancing descriptions with witty, energetic dialogue. Marks's deftly understated watercolors reflect the tale's humor, as well as the awe and wonder of the sea. Despite an unfortunate low-budget format: perfection--and a delight. (Fiction. 5+) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Hardcover: 46 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (J) (April 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374348693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374348694
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,208,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By DeeDee Fox VINE VOICE on June 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is one of my all-time favorite children's books ever written. The pages in this story come alive with Jill Patton Walsh's absorbing imagery. Boys and girls alike will enjoy this story which is cleverly written and speaks volumes to children on a number of important life lessons: value for others, staying true to one's self and more... If there is one book you purchase for your child, this should be that book. Ours is worn and weathered and dog-eared, and still, on evenings when my youngest isn't feeling well, this is the book I pull out and read to her. You can't go wrong with this one.

~DeeDee Fox, Author of The Ruby Red Slippers
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Format: Hardcover
At the heart of this charming story lies a meditation on the uncanny power and beauty and mystery of music. The watercolor illustrations are quite lovely and fit in smoothly with the mood of the tale. It took me just five minutes to read, but I immediately wanted everyone I know to read it, too. (Makes a great gift for your favorite church musician!)
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