Dulcimer Boy

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A weathered stranger delivers an old wicker chest to the Carbuncles' doorstep. In it they find two sleeping baby boys and a beautiful silver-stringed instrument. For the sake of appearing charitable to their neighbors, the Carbuncles take the boys in, but William and Jules are consigned to the chilly attic, and the dulcimer is locked away -- until William is old enough to play it, whereupon he discovers a natural musical talent that leads him on a bittersweet journey to ...
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A weathered stranger delivers an old wicker chest to the Carbuncles' doorstep. In it they find two sleeping baby boys and a beautiful silver-stringed instrument. For the sake of appearing charitable to their neighbors, the Carbuncles take the boys in, but William and Jules are consigned to the chilly attic, and the dulcimer is locked away -- until William is old enough to play it, whereupon he discovers a natural musical talent that leads him on a bittersweet journey to self-discovery.

Featuring luminous illustrations by Caldecott Honor artist Brian Selznick, this haunting tale by National Book Award finalist Tor Seidler has a transcendent lyricism that soars as gracefully as William's mysterious music.

Here's a freshly illustrated edition of a slightly mystical story of two boy babies deposited on a New England doorstep with a note giving their names and a dulcimer that is ''all their father has to give them.''

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Seidler never wrote anything finer or more delicate than this fairy tale about two baby boys who are delivered in a wicker chest to miserly relatives, accompanied by nothing but a silver-stringed dulcimer. — Elizabeth Ward
Publishers Weekly
This reissue of the 1979 tale of two orphaned boys left on their uncle's doorstep is now accompanied by elegant half-tone illustrations by Selznick. PW called it "a handsome presentation of this eloquent tale of finding one's place in the world." All ages. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
In an eerie world where people have cold and hard hearts, twin baby boys are left at the doorstep of their uncle's house. They grow up into odd boys, kept hidden from the world because of their strangeness. The only thing they have from their parents is a dulcimer. The dulcimer has a powerful attraction for William, the stronger of the twins, and he decides to take the wonderful instrument and flee. This is a dark, almost gothic place where cruelty to children is commonplace. In a Dickensian world where orphaned youngsters are there to be thrown away or used for profit, William and his lonely little brother seem to be the pawns of chance. Masterfully written with powerful imagery, this is a disturbing tale that left this reader feeling more than a little uncomfortable. True to the Dickensian model, a stranger steps in to help the boys in their time of need and we are relieved to have a happy ending. The author has infused small pieces of wry humor into his story, which adds to the weird nature of this book. For example the horrible aunt and uncle are called Mr. and Mrs. Carbuncle. A carbuncle can be a gem, but it can also be a terrible sore. There is one aspect of the story that is puzzling: How can William leave his poor defenseless brother in the home of his cruel aunt and uncle? How can he abandon Jules, a boy who does not speak and who is so frail and ill? There is a magical and ethereal quality to William, an almost spirit like element to his personality, and yet at the same time he is heartless enough to leave his brother behind. Once again Tor Seidler has written a book that is deeply moving, thought provoking, and which will appeal to many different kinds of readers. 2003,HarperCollins,
— Marya Jansen-Gruber
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-First published in 1979 (Viking; o.p.) for adults, Seidler's early-20th-century New England fairy tale receives an inspired pictorial resurrection by Selznick. Tracing the footsteps of musically gifted William Carbuncle from his arrival on his uncaring uncle's doorstep in a box containing him, his brother, and a silver-stringed dulcimer, the story follows William's escape and journey south. Tricked by an innkeeper into a year's servitude, he spends his days plotting his brother's rescue and his nights playing sorrowful love songs of the sea to drunken sailor crowds. Liberation soon appears in the guise of a fictional New York City mayor, and William finally frees his brother from servitude and gains his own independence. Though Dulcimer Boy is without traditional fairy-tale elements, magic instead is portrayed as artistic accomplishment, inspiration, and drive. And, Seidler's simple yet eloquent prose likens William's plight to a caged songbird, cleverly weaving the hero's physical dilemma and pursuit of artistic creativity into the novel's rising tension. Selznick's detailed sense of light and shadow shines as his soft-textured acrylic paintings not only echo the novel's overall poetic melancholy, but also serve as integral pieces of the plot itself. This fusion of fantastic storytelling and engaging illustrations makes Dulcimer Boy an exciting and inspirational work that will be read, both alone and aloud, and remembered.-Hillias J. Martin, New York Public Library Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780064410489
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/26/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 160
  • Age range: 10 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.62 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in Littleton, New Hampshire, Tor Seidler grew up in Vermont and later, Seattle, Washington, in both of which 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 Tale, The 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.

Brian Selznick is the illustrator of many books for children, among them the Caldecott Honor book The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, as well as his own The Boy of a Thousand Faces and The Houdini Box. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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First Chapter

The Dulcimer Boy

Chapter One

There was a stranger at the front door with a wicker chest under his arm.

"Tradespeople use the back," said the massive, bald-headed gentleman who answered.

Instead of turning away, the stranger handed him a card.

"This be you?" he asked.

The bald gentleman took the card. It read:

Eustace Carbuncle, Esq.
The Carbuncle Estate
The Hill Above Rigglemore
New England

Mr. Carbuncle nodded curtly but did not ask the stranger in. The stranger's curly brown hair was full of dust, and his navy-blue clothes were scruffy. He also stammered in an undignified manner: the words jerked out of his mouth as if they would have preferred staying inside him.

"This here's . . . for you then. Used to belong to your wife's sister, but your wife's sister . . . she died. A weakly creature she was, and she's . . . gone away."

"Ah," Mr. Carbuncle said, removing his hands from the pockets of his smoking jacket to accept the wicker chest. "And she remembered us in her will? Something of value, perhaps?"

But without another word the stranger took himself off, hurrying through the gate in the picket fence and down the hill.

In Mr. Carbuncle's mouth was a thick black cigar, which rescued his large pink face from suggesting a certain harmlessness. The cigar twitched at the fellow's behavior. But in a moment he turned and took the wicker chest into the house. "Amelia, my dear," he called out. "Something from your sister."

Mrs. Carbuncle entered the hall with a weary sigh and a faint odor of disinfectant. She was a narrow, black-stockinged woman with her hair caught up in a black scarf; her narrowness and hardness of feature were in strong contrast to her husband. She leaned her broom against the banister and came over to the hall table, where he had deposited the chest.

"My sister?" she said. "But I haven't seen her these years. Why would she send us something now, out of the clear blue sky?"

"She died," Mr. Carbuncle replied. "You never know -- it might be something of value."

"Oh, well then," said Mrs. Carbuncle.

They opened the lid to the wicker chest. Inside were a tiny boy with golden curls, an equally tiny boy with hair all different shades of brown like a bowl of nuts, and a strange musical instrument. The boys were both sound asleep, and a note was wound in the instrument's silver strings. It said:

William has the brown hair and Jules the gold.

They are ten months old.

This dulcimer is all their father has to give them.

Mrs. Carbuncle crossly tore the note into little pieces. She was careful, however, to stuff the pieces into her apron pocket, letting none of them drop on the floor, for she had already done the hall that morning.

"Who even knew Molly was married?" she cried. "A wonderful wedding announcement!"

She then went to the hall closet and began to pull on a pair of galoshes. When Mr. Carbuncle asked her why, she explained, "You know how it is down there around the orphanage -- all that river muck."

Mr. Carbuncle looked from his wife to the strange merchandise in the wicker chest. Beside the chest stood a pewter bowl full of unpaid bills.

"Let's not be rash, Amelia, my dear," he said, puffing thoughtfully on his cigar.

"Mr. Carbuncle?"

"It occurs to me that we've been handed a golden opportunity."

"Golden opportunity?"


Mrs. Carbuncle stared aghast at the gentleman of leisure she had married. "But, Mr. Carbuncle! You can't be thinking of taking them in! Think of the expense, sir! Think of the wear and tear on your furniture, your rugs. And we can't even afford to reshingle the roof!"

"Exactly," said Mr. Carbuncle, lifting his eyes in that direction. "Don't think the neighbors haven't noticed."

He could not see through to the roof that was in disrepair, but he could see the ceiling moldings, around which his cigar smoke was curling. They were very grand, but they were dingy in spite of all his wife's efforts. "Besides," he added, "these two won't eat much."

Mrs. Carbuncle's face grew very pinched, but she did not drop her tone of servility.

"I don't understand, Mr. Carbuncle," she said.

"Two objects of charity, Amelia. Don't you see? Two objects of charity under our roof. That's better than painting and shingling!"

All Mrs. Carbuncle could do was sigh.

"Oh, well then," she said.

The Dulcimer Boy. Copyright © by Tor Seidler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Customer Reviews

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