cover image Listen to the Nightingale

Listen to the Nightingale

Rumer Godden. Viking Children's Books, $15 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-670-84517-0

Only after Madame Holbein's death does 10-year-old Lottie understand her beloved dance teacher's advice to ``listen to the nightingale'' and make room in her life for other things besides ballet. Lottie's revelation begins when she serendipitously comes to own Prince, a King Charles Cavalier spaniel. But when the girl earns a place at a prestigious boarding school for dancers, she must give up the dog. The dilemma about the puppy is predictably resolved, but subsequent conflicts--including an act of betrayal, a case of blackmail and the heroine's sudden loss of energy--prove more surprising and complex. Besides her imaginative exploration of a young ballet student's character, Godden ( The Story of Holly and Ivy ; An Episode of Sparrows ) offers memorable portraits of Lottie's aunt, neighbors, teachers and acquaintances, among them Violetta, a child crippled by her own mother; prankster Salvador; and rich, spoiled Irene. Readers will willingly forgive the plot contrivances in exchange for Godden's expert narration, her beguiling setting and her heartening celebration of love and happy endings. Ages 10-up. (Oct.)