cover image The Composer Is Dead

The Composer Is Dead

Lemony Snicket, , music by Nathaniel Stookey, illus. by Carson Ellis . HarperCollins, $17.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-123627-3

Correction: The title of Carolyn Meyer's novel is The True Adventures of Charley Darwin (Reviews, Dec. 15).

The Composer Is Dead Lemony Snicket , music by Nathaniel Stookey, illus. by Carson Ellis HarperCollins , $17.99 (40p with CD) ISBN 978-0-06-123627-3

A stint narrating live performances of Peter and the Wolf led Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) to collaborate with Stookey on this introduction to the instruments of the orchestra (see “Lemony Snicket Redux,” Oct. 27). In true Snicket fashion, the device is a picture book cum police procedural, with a murder investigation functioning as plot. The tone is set by the opening spread, which describes the composer, face down at his desk, “not humming.... not moving, or even breathing.” The single line of text on the next page reads: “This is called decomposing.” (The illustration shows a large, menacing fly.) The witty wordplay proceeds with the Inspector, a rosy-cheeked Hercule Poirot type in a bowler and pinstripe suit, interrogating each section, beginning with the First Violins, “who have the trickier parts to play,” followed by the Second Violins, “who are more fun at parties.” Ellis (known for her art for the band The Decemberists as well as for illustrating the Mysterious Benedict Society books) brightens the heavily black stage scenes with coral, gold and sepia accents against expansive white backgrounds. Silhouettes of each instrument add a period feel. The accompanying CD features Snicket narrating and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra performing Stookey's original score. A national tour begins March 7 in New York City. Ages 5–up. (Mar.)