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.