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Book Review: Symphony City by Amy Martin

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Amy Martin, nationally acclaimed illustrator and indie rock lover, is set to release her first children’s book, Symphony City, with McSweeney’s McMullens in July 2011.

Symphony City is visually engaging and colorful, capturing readers of all ages in the tale of a young girl who was in the midst of traveling to an orchestral performance with a relative, only to find herself alone on a subway platform. The rest of the storyline focuses on how she contends with being lost in an urban city.

Amy Martin masters the use of color to denote emotion, wisely drawing the story’s beginning in subdued tones and adding key, vibrant touches to minimal, symbolic items: the girl’s yellow jacket, a butterfly picture frame inside her home, and the silent record player that rests on her kitchen table. The illustrations are delightful, and become progressively more colorful.

Fear briefly holds the girl still after she finds herself alone, but yellow birds, metaphorical music notes, soon arrive as the girl listens to a flutist and ventures above ground. Soon, the girl is immersed in the symphonic life around her. Detailed, realistic images, such as a man playing the piano for alleyway cats and a street drummer rocking out in the rain, evolve into more adventurous scenes — the girl is swept up in a wave of music down the street (while sitting on a floor tom), the hull of a large ship forms the backdrop for the city’s skyline, and a complete forest emerges from the end of a clarinet. Ultimately, butterflies flutter toward the girl from her mother’s lips; her voice becomes the most beautiful music heard yet. She is found, and the two embrace in happiness.  

This book will be treasured in one’s family library, especially by music loving urbanites, and further, passed on for generations. The cover of the book folds out into a full-sized poster, worthy of a framed display in one’s bedroom. Further, Symphony City‘s underlying themes can help a parent teach their children pertinent, important lessons like what to do if they become separated from an adult, how to navigate their neighborhood streets, and can introduce and inspire them to appreciate and learn fine and performing arts.

Symphony City encapsulates the emotive experience of listening to and playing music, a feat as it stands, but also demonstrates the power music wields to soothe, nurture, and even bring someone, in a sense, home. Amy Martin will surely garner well-deserved praise for this outstanding work. 

View her portfolio at amymartinillustration.com and read the related press release at Riot Act Media.

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