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Second Fiddle: Or How to Tell a Blackbird from a Sausage Hardcover – April 3, 2007


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 11 - 14 years
  • Lexile Measure: 810L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press; First Edition edition (April 3, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596431229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596431225
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,179,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6–8—Setting her story in rural Ireland, Parkinson develops the character of Margaret Rose Clarke through the use of first-person narrative. Mags, 12, speaks directly to readers, often explaining her use of dialogue and literary device, letting her audience in on the formation of the novel. ("I am plan-ning to be a writer when I grow up, and I am going to use this story to practice a few little phrases that might be a bit sophisticated." "I've thought a lot about intriguing openings….") Her father has recently died, causing her mother to sell their family home and move to the country. Wandering through the woods, she meets Gillian, a talented musician who has a chance to audition at the distinguished Yehudi Menuhin School of Music but who needs to find her father to ask for plane fare. Mags turns the search for Gillian's father into a mystery to be solved and attacks the problem with considerable energy. The contrast between these two characters, both missing their fathers in very different circumstances, as well as the relationships between Mags and Gillian and Mags and her mother, are artfully rendered, giving readers insight into the protagonist's heart and mind. She is smart, wise, outspoken, and not always as sure of herself as she appears on the outside. While the story has a definite ending, to which Mags adds a short chapter in an attempt to tie up all loose ends, it begs to continue.—Wendy Smith-D'Arezzo, Loyola College, Baltimore, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Twelve-year-old Mags tells her story of how, while exploring the woods near her new home, she hears music and observes a girl slightly older than herself fiddling with abandon near a forester's hut. The girls become friends, and Mags soon enlists herself as lead detective in Gillian's hunt for her sort-of-missing father, whose funding she needs for an audition at a prestigious music school. (Gillian's mother has no interest in her daughter's exceptional musical skill.) Though Mags claims that her story is not like "those other realistic novels" about death, divorce, and other problems, she is not entirely credible; she's dealing with problems herself, most notably, her father. All the same, Mags is a lively narrator, secondary characters are well drawn, and the novel deals gently with friendship and sensitive family issues. Heather Booth
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Finally, none of the events go too quickly or too slowly; the book flows smoothly.
Zbigniew Chodor
I thought that was very funny and ironic because Mags went through all that trouble, and, then her mom said she could have taken the ride.
M. Lee
With its lovely descriptions and witty humor, Second Fiddle was an altogether delightful read.
mimagirl

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mimagirl on August 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Second Fiddle is told from the point of view of Mags Clarke, aspiring writer. Mags comes across a girl playing a violin in the woods one day - a girl with remarkable musical talent. Her name is Gillian, and soon Mags takes it upon herself to help Gillian along with her quest to go to a famous (and expensive) school for musicians. But as Mags writes in the beginning, "This story is mainly about me. It was going to be mainly about Gillian, but I have to admit that, when it comes down to it, I find me more interesting."

This was the best book I read in all of June. What captured me from the very beginning of this book was the voice the author gave to Mags as the narrator. Mags was smart, honest, and she felt completely real. It seemed as if the story was actually being written by this imaginative young girl. With its lovely descriptions and witty humor, Second Fiddle was an altogether delightful read.
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Format: Hardcover
As a mother who screens everything her 11-year-old American daughter reads, I always get a kick out of books that reference Enid Blyton. It's a shame Ms. Blyton is not more widely read in the United States, but "Second Fiddle or How to Tell a Blackbird from a Sausage" by Siobhan Parkinson was just going to be another-girl-finds-best-friend-who's-very-different-from-her book until it was obvious that Ms. Parkinson enjoyed the same books I did growing up! The book is written to have been written by Mags, speaking alternatively as Gillian - so the set-up of the book is pretty intriguing already. Some parts of the book reminded me of Maeve Binchy and Franck McCourt, which is hardly surprising, since the author is Irish and the story set in Ireland. What I really liked about it is how this is not just that this book stands alone - but that the ending is not exactly predictable, and not exactly joy-in-the-air happy. It's a little like Irish lager, actually: bitter-sweet yet smooth! Said daughter, in her sunny way, enjoyed the book on a completely different level:

"The book, 'Second Fiddle or How to Tell a Blackbird from a Sausage' by Siobhan Parkinson was a funny story about Project Manhunt, a project like no other. I thought that the book (Mags in particular) was also very original.

"Mags is new to the neighborhood and already she's made her mark. Gillian is not new at all and yet she and her brother live in a tree house when they are not at home with their opera-singing mother. But when Gillian needs money for her audition in England, the two join forces to find Gillian's father. But will Mags and Mira...I mean Gillian, find her father? Or will Gillian miss her one and only chance to get into the Yehudi Menuhin school in England?
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By Danette Haworth on May 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book! The voice is strong; the internal dialogue is hilarious. I definitely recommend it.
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By Zbigniew Chodor on August 31, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bartosz Chodor NEST+m 08E
Second Fiddle by Siobhan Parkinson is not a very good fiction book. The plot, although it has some twists, is cliché and barely keeps the reader interested. The writing style is decent, and it makes up for the bad plot.
The book starts when Mags Clarke meets Gillian Regan in a forest in rural Ireland, and Gillian invites Mags to drink tea. This meeting allows the rest of the story to flow through. As their friendship progresses, Gillian invites Mags over to her house and tells Mags her dream: to audition and study in the Yehudi Menuhin school, a world famous music school. Because the school is in England, however, funding for the flight is a problem. The two children come up with the idea of asking Gillian's father for money, and there the plot takes a twist. Once Mags locates Gillian's father, who is living in a different town, she asks him for funding. Sadly, Gillian's father refuses, saying that it is too much money. Gillian is left without a way to get to England, and Mags cannot help her. This "cliffhanger" barely interests the reader enough to continue reading.
Ms. Parkinson's writing style makes up for the cliché plot and allows the book to be passed off as "alright." She describes most details in sensory language, and clearly lets the reader know what is happening. Through her writing, the events and characters come alive and seem very realistic; nothing in this book is awkward. The language she uses in her writing makes the book interesting; expressive words such as vital, porridge-faced, and strategy get the main character's opinions out in a laughable and fitting way. Finally, none of the events go too quickly or too slowly; the book flows smoothly.
Overall, I rate this book three out of five stars.
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Format: Hardcover
Mags has moved with her mother to a new area after the death of her father and is walking through a strange woods when she comes across a girl practicing the violin. The two become friends and Mags convinces Gillian to help find her absent father to travel to England to audition to a prestigious music school. The friendship evolves even as control issues arise in this moving story of music, loss, and getting along.
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