THE SINGING HAT

Tohby Riddle, Author THE SINGING HATTohby Riddle

Colin Jenkins, an earnest, gray-suited businessman, wakes up from a nap one day with a bird's nest on his head. His steadfast refusal to disturb a mother bird and her egg leads to a quiet urban martyrdom; he loses his job, his friends abandon him and he and his daughter have to move. But his vocation as a bird nurturer helps him recognize the hollowness and insignificance of much of the rest of his life. "He never took another job like the one he had, but he always found work," the fable says near its end. After the birds fly off, a parting shot shows Colin Jenkins, poorer but happier, gazing fondly at their empty nest (placed near his window), in which "from time to time, he would find the most beautiful and improbable things." Riddle (The Great Escape from City Zoo) draws on his experience as a cartoonist for the Sydney Morning Herald for his understated line drawings, then heightens them with photos of cloth, foliage and food, often suggesting a stage setting—particularly when the man is alone with his birds (perched on the edge of his chair, or sitting up in bed). Older readers may best appreciate the syntax ("He could not easily dislodge the perfectly fitted nest from his head, nor did he want to interrupt the bird at such a fragile and important time of life"), the wry humor (the boss in the story speaks in word balloons filled with stock market prices, and the birds sing in printed arpeggios) and the hero's predicament. Ages 3-7. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Children's
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