cover image Igor: The Bird Who Couldn't Sing

Igor: The Bird Who Couldn't Sing

Satoshi Kitamura, . . FSG, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-374-33558-8

Igor, a midnight-blue bird with a daffodil-yellow beak, has great expectations for Spring, "the season of songs." His fellow birds produce uniform bubbles and taffy-twisted waves that represent mellifluous sound. But Igor's first song comes out as a rainbow-splashed asymmetrical squawk, like a Kandinsky or Klee squiggle in midair. Berated by his flock, Igor practices notes and cadence with a xylophone, metronome and boombox, and he tests the patience of voice teacher Madam Goose. In a slyly funny series of vignettes, painted in stained-glass hues of summer green and blue-violet, Kitamura (Comic Adventures of Boots ) pictures Igor envying other animals' music-making: an all-cat jazz combo performs in a back alley, a snarling dog guitar band jams in the park and sheep play classical music in a meadow orchestra. Yet after a poignant buildup, the story hits an off note. Igor retreats to a bleak brown landscape, where his cacophonous nighttime singing wakens a Dodo bird who digs his groove. "Let's form a band!" says the ostensibly extinct bird, whose history does not bode well for Igor's happiness. Kitamura dedicates this book "in appreciation of the music of Ornette Coleman," but he sells experimental musicians short by suggesting that Igor is a tone-deaf exile rather than a skillful nonconformist. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)