The Music Machine

by Samuel Wright
Reviewed date: 2010 Jan 29
142 pages
cover art

Plot summary:
The Music Machine is best known through the songs and videos produced in the 1970s and 1980s, but there's a chapter book too. Stevie and Nancy are transported to Agapeland where they discover the Music Machine. The Music Machine is the most magnificent treasure in all Agapeland. It works so simply: put something in it, and a song comes out.

Mr. Conductor explains to Stevie and Nancy that not only does the Music Machine play beautiful songs, it is critical to the survival of Agapeland itself. Each year during the Festival of Docsa, the sacred scrolls from Majesty are put into the Music Machine. The songs that issue forth sustain the life of Agapeland for the coming year. The scrolls must be put into the Music Machine during the seven day festival. Otherwise, Agapeland will die.

Stevie and Nancy are excited when Mr. Conductor tells them that the Festival of Docsa will start the next day. They spend the night in Agapeland. During the night, they each have a vision of Agapeland dying. In the dream, a sparrow sings a song about faith, and the voice of Majesty tells them: "When problems seem bigger than mountains so high, remember the song of the sparrow and fly."

That very night, the Music Machine is stolen. Mr. Pimms and his three Pudgian helpers spirit it away during the night, to deliver it to Prince Nakel in the land of Aire. If the Music Machine is not recovered and returned within seven days, the Festival of Dosca will be over, the sacred scrolls will not have been inserted, and Agapeland will die. Stevie and Nancy set out immediately to rescue the Music Machine.

On their way to Aire to recapture the Music Machine, Stevie and Nancy meets others who join them in their quest: Bundle, a little huggit that clings to Nancy; Herbert, the slow snail who teaches them about patience; Cap'n Jack and his pal Gentle George; and Tarhf, Tavin, and Tustin, three boys who aspire to become Royal Guards.

The troop from Agapeland enters Aire and arrive in the central city of The Proper just as Mr. Pimms and the Pudgians arrive bringing the Music Machine. Steve, Nancy, and the rest of the troop are arrested as spies. They are brought before Prince Nakel, who demands that they reveal how to operate the Music Machine. They refuse. He orders that they and the Music Machine be burned at the stake.

All seems lost. It is the last day of Docsa. Even if they were to escape now, they could never return the Music Machine in time to save Agapeland. Then Stevie remembers the voice in his dream: "When problems seem bigger than mountains so high, remember the song of the sparrow and fly." With Nancy's help, he remembers the sparrow's song from the dream.

The others from Agapeland join in, and as they are singing, a great wind catches them up. It unties their bonds, lifts them and the Music Machine up into the air to a fiery floating carriage. Six winged horses pull the carriage swiftly to Agapeland, where they land in the Royal Meadow. Mr. Conductor places the sacred scrolls into the Music Machine, and the heavenly music washes over Agapeland, restoring life to the land.

Thoughts about style:
The Music Machine is a great story. The writing has some technical problems that make it hard to read out loud. Mr. Wright uses a lot of dependent clauses to start sentences. That's OK occasionally, but he overuses it. And more importantly, he uses it incorrectly. Usually it's in the form of "Doing this, Stevie said that." Or "Saying that, Nancy did this." Often, it's not even possible to be "doing this" while "saying that," so Wright's sentence construction isn't just awkward, it's wrong. Kids won't notice that problem, though, so I recommend The Music Machine without reservation.

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