'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.' - author Jackie French

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Review: Symphony City

A young girl travels on the subway with her mum. They're off to a free Symphony City Orchestra Concert and she's very excited.

Things are crammed and busy on the train platform--and the child loses hold of her mum's hand.

She is lost in the underground caverns of the subway.

But the young girl is not afraid, for all around her is the symphony of the city. A girl plays a flute. A man plays the keyboards. Another bangs the drums. The little girl is swept up in the rhythm and dances along, sploshing in puddles as the rain comes down.

As she floats along the street on a sea of newly-fallen rain, she hears a French horn in a window, the dulcet tones of a clarinet, the bell-like tones of a xylophone. The city is awash with melody--and she not only feels its beauty; she understands it.

I love the magical realism of this book. I love that the child is swept away (literally at times) by the music, and I love that she finds comfort and joy in it, despite being lost in a very large place.

Soon, the girl comes to find her way home and her mother calls her name--the most beautiful music of all. The final page of the girl and mother hugging is absolutely heart-melting. Even I can feel that hug.

I was torn over the illustrations in this book. They are at once stunning, resplendent in colour and movement and texture and design. The scene where the girl sails over the city clinging to Chinese koi fish balloons is just superb. But the line drawings of the people (including the child) look like photograph tracings, and, to me, they seemed to break the spell of the truly divine artistic renderings of the rest of the book.

Nonetheless, the colour palette and end papers are amazing, and the cover opens up to a beautiful poster.

Title: Symphony City
Author/Illustrator: Amy Martin
Publisher: McSweeney's Publishing, $22.99 RRP
Publication Date: 7 July 2011
Format: Hard cover with dust jacket
ISBN: 9781936365395
For ages: 3 - 10
Type: Picture Book

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