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by By Tor Seidler (Author), Brian Selznick (Illustrator)
Laura Geringer, 2003
Review by Victoria Suarez on Oct 21st 2003

The Dulcimer Boy

            The Dulcimer Boy by Tor Seidler is a strange story. It has a very mystical quality about it.  It tells the story of the life that two orphaned brothers live after their mother dies and they are left with their aunt and uncle.

            The story takes place in a small New England town.  Wanting to seem charitable even though they would have difficulty affording two more children the aunt and uncle take in the two small boys.  Along with the boys the only other object that was delivered was an instrument called a dulcimer.  As the boys’ William and Jules’ grow they develop into odd children and are hidden in the attic.  While in the attic Jules starts to withdraw from the world around him despite attempts from his brother to keep him involved.  William during this time becomes very interested in learning how to play the dulcimer and discovers that he has both the talent to play and sing. The story takes a turn when the Carbuncles’ fortune takes a turn for the worse.  They are forced to sell many of their antiques.  The dulcimer is taken away from a distraught William and is tagged for the sale.  In an attempt to reclaim the dulcimer and leave the house in the middle of the night William breaks the family’s prize mahogany secretary and flees from the house.  William finds himself alone and hungry in the city.  The smell of food lures him into an inn where he is tricked into signing a one year contract to play his dulcimer.  William is so talented with his playing that soon there is standing room only in the small inn.  After a while his commitment becomes more of a burden then a pleasure.  Hope is found when a sailor named Mr. Drake attends one of Williams shows.  This sailor turns out to be a major person from William’s past.  He takes William many miles away in an attempt to help him find his way back home to see how Jules has fared without him.  When they arrive at the home it turns out that the Carbuncles no longer live there.  They were forced to live in a shack due to the lack of money.  William is reunited with his awful aunt and uncle’ and his brother Jules who has been forced to clean chimneys for money. (Something that William will be doing soon as well.)  In the end it is people from William’s journey that come to save him and Jules from their life of ugliness and misfortune.  

            This book had an underlying mystery to it.  Tor Seidler pulls in his partiality with nature by having a flock of birds follow William throughout his adventure.  The Dulcimer Boy was originally published in 1979 and is the book that gave Tor Seidler his debut as a novelist.  It is being reissued in this deluxe new edition.

Born in LittletonNew Hampshire’ Tor Seidler grew up in Vermont and later’ SeattleWashington. (In both of these places his parents were involved in the theater.) Encouraged by his family’s love of the arts’ Mr. Seidler studied English literature at Stanford University’ and at the age of twenty-seven his first book’ The Dulcimer Boy’ was published’ launching his celebrated career as a writer. Over the past twenty years’ Mr. Seidler has become one of the most important voices in children’s fiction with such classics as’ A Rat’s TaleThe Wainscott Weasel’ an ALA Notable Book’ Terpin’ and Mean Margaret’ which was selected as a finalist for the National Book Award in 1997. He currently lives in New York City.

This well written book will lead its readers on a mysterious and enchanting journey as William finds out who he is and what his meaning in life is to be.  Children of all ages will enjoy and relate to The Dulcimer Boy. The story line provides its reader with both excitement and interest as it leads them along the twisting journey of a young boy.  Both sadness and enjoyment will be experienced through a young boy’s eyes as he is forced to become a man by carrying burdens too large for a child.  His strength and endurance lead him back home to save his young brother from a life of despair.  

© 2003 Victoria Suarez

Victoria Suarez Education – BA in Elementary Education from Saint Joseph’s University. She is currently completing her Masters degree in Education at the University of Stony Brook. Victoria is a second grade teacher at the South Country School District located on Long Island. She enjoys reading, skiing and spending time with her family.