THE TEARS OF THE SALAMANDER

Peter Dickinson, Author . Random/Lamb $16.95 (197p) ISBN 978-0-385-73098-3

Burning questions—about the twin influences of nature and nurture, the true meaning of family, and the possibility of guiding one's fate, to name a few—blaze below the surface of Dickinson's (The Ropemaker; A Bone from a Dry Sea) engrossing, almost operatic novel, set in long-ago Italy. Alfredo has a passion for music and sings in the cathedral choir, and he also has a deep knowledge of fire, so that he loves to tend the enormous ovens in his father's bakery. But when his family is killed in a freak fire, Alfredo goes to live with his secretive Uncle Giorgio in the DiSala ancestral home, a vast and lonely place on the slopes of Mount Etna. There he discovers that his enthusiasms run deep in his blood: for centuries his ancestors have used the power of music to control the volcanic mountain's fire. Uncle Giorgio, however, turns out to have a nefarious plan in store, and Alfredo enlists the aid of two unlikely allies to bring things to rights. Pitch-perfect, unobtrusive storytelling gracefully cedes center stage to the story's near-mythic elements. Thoughtful readers will find much to ponder in the afterglow of this tale of an alchemy powerful enough to transmute a handful of isolated, unhappy beings into a loving family and to change an existence scorched by tragedy into a life worth living. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 08/11/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Library Binding - 197 pages - 978-0-385-90125-3
Paperback - 197 pages - 978-0-440-23823-2
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-7569-5691-2
Prebound-Glued - 197 pages - 978-1-4176-4288-5
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