This is a follow up to King Mouse from the same creative team. Out on a walk, Bear discovers a ukulele in the grass. Bear plucked a string and thought of a song. Mouse was there on a stump, all ready to listen. Then a crow arrived an found a tambourine in the grass. She immediately sang her song for Bear and Mouse. Snake arrived next and discovered a drum, which she used to sing her own song before Bear could start his. Tortoise was next with a horn and a song. Then Fox appeared and thought they should start a band and she could be their manager. Finally, it was time for Bear to sing his song. When the others didn’t praise it, he headed away. But one friend isn’t ready to let him leave entirely.
There is a beautiful delicacy to the story and the illustrations that work deliciously together as a whole. Fagan uses repetition in the story with the series of interruptions before Bear can sing his song. There is a wonderful tension that readers and the bear feel as he is preempted again and again. It’s also a treat to have a moment of such humor in the center of this thoughtful book which then returns to its previous tone but retains a wry grin.
The illustrations are done in graphite and colored digitally. The digital color is so pale that it is a whisper of color at the edges of the scenes with pale green leaves, a brown bear, and some flowers with a glimmer of pink. They are subtle and lovely, offering space for song and performance.
Thoughtful and lovely, this book explores friendship, sharing the limelight, and being true to yourself.
The day starts with a peaceful song of birds and crickets. The hornets buzz in and out of their paper nest and the frogs croak from the lily pads. The melody continues through the morning, until the weather changes. Dark clouds enter the sky accompanied by the crash of thunder cymbals. The rhythm of falling rain takes up the beat. The rain drives down, filling the air. Then it ends with plunks of drops into puddles. The symphony is complete.
This picture book is beautifully simple. The text is carries the theme of music throughout the day, applying it cleverly to the sounds of the meadow. The various noises made by the animals will have children joining into the noise and creating their own music along the way. Admirably even with the onset of the storm, the pacing and feel of the book stays the same. There is no panic at the natural storm but a calmness that accompanies the noise and rhythm.
The illustrations are done with lovely fine lines that celebrate the vegetation and inhabitants of the meadow. Most of the animals are given a color that is their own from the orange fox to the green frog to the yellow bird. This will invite conversation about the illustrations, colors and what is happening on the pages. Some of the pages are wonderful in their simple drama such as the spread of rainfall that covers the meadow.
A musical look at nature. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy provided by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
Jazz for Lunch! by Jarrett Dapier, illustrated by Eugenia Mello (9781534454088)
A boy heads with their Auntie Nina to a jazz club for lunch. The musicians play while the chefs in the kitchen cook, their sounds mixing together. But it’s so crowded that they can’t get to the front and can’t get any food either. It gets hot too, so the two head out and Auntie Nina has a new plan. The next day, the two of them set up in the kitchen. They listen to jazz on the stereo and start cooking together. There is cinnamon, peanuts, chicken, cheese, and much more, as they name the dishes after jazz icons. Soon it is the boy’s turn to have a drum solo played on the pots and pans. A knock comes on the door, and it’s all of the jazz musicians from the club. They share a great meal together. Now what’s for dinner?
This book cleverly demonstrates the improvisation of jazz music through having to change their plans for the day. That theme is also part of their cooking as their free-flowing style continues there with plenty of style. The text throughout the book has rhyme and rhythm. Dapier uses repetition of the phrase “Jazz for lunch!” throughout the book to great effect.
Mello’s illustrations are filled with bright colors of saffron, tomato, melon and blueberry. The illustrations swirl with movement, whether it is music moving through the air or ingredients dancing into the pan.
A delightful jazz riff on food. Appropriate for ages 3-6.
When Shaheen can’t find her father anywhere, she and her cousin Tannaz try to figure out where he might have gone. They check out the vintage record store he loves, but it’s closed and the owner is nowhere to be found either. The two girls decide to break into the store and discover an unplugged jukebox. When they play one of her father’s favorite records, the jukebox takes them back in time to when the songs were being performed at a concert. At the end of the record, they are taken back to their regular lives. As the girls work to figure out why Shaheen’s father hasn’t returned, they also learn that there is a cost to time travel and one that they may have to risk to save him from the past where he is trapped.
This graphic novel for middle grades is a wonderful mixture of music and time travel. The various songs that they time travel with feature well-known musicians and then are artfully combined with social justice moments in history. The story centers on the two Indian-American protagonists who are different from one another but willing work together to solve the mystery. With a look at race and civil rights, the two girls traverse time learning a lot along the way.
The art is fresh and colorful. Using a time travel visual as well as record covers, it has a clear distinction between the modern part of the story and the historical events the girls witness.
A groovy graphic novel worth a spin. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
A musician in a family of conservationists and scientists, Louisa finds herself sent away from her home in Canada for the summer to spend time in Australia with her mother’s family. In the remote Tasmanian rainforest, the family has a camp run by her Uncle Ruff. She has brought along her violin, determined to spend time practicing so that she can successfully compete, something her nerves when she plays publicly haven’t allowed her to do. A local resort owner’s son quickly becomes friends with Louisa, who is one of the first teens not to mock his autism and his quirky behaviors. Louisa also learns more about the camp, which is actually a sanctuary created by her great-grandmother to protect the Tasmanian tigers, thought to be extinct. At least one of these large dog-like marsupials may still live on Convict Rock, an island nearby. With a mining operation soon to destroy the sanctuary and the island, they have to work quickly to save this last tiger. By reading her great-grandmother’s journals, Louisa realizes she may be the key to its survival.
This book transports readers into the Tasmanian rainforest. Written with a focus that keeps its length nicely manageable, the novel doesn’t ever feel rushed. Instead it is a journey personally for Louisa through her own fears of performing to a desire to save a creature from true extinction. Her steadily building connection to the Australian wildlife and environment allows readers to explore it as well, falling just as hard as Louisa has for its unique habitat.
This is an environmentalist book that takes a different path. It doesn’t lecture at all, instead allowing immersion within a singular place to really speak to its importance, the vitality of threatened species, and the need to take action. All of the characters are well drawn and complete, filled with multiple dimensions that make them interesting to spend time with in this beautifully described natural wonder.
Amazing writing, vivid characters and lost species come together into a marvelous read. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
This sequel to All Summer Long continues the story of Bina and her band. This new graphic novel shows the drama of middle school friendships and how that can be made even worse by adding in band dynamics. At first, Bina loves being in a band with her best friend, Darcy. But when Enzo joins them, she starts to feel like she’s being pushed out of her own band! It gets even worse when Darcy and Enzo become romantically involved. As they try to change Darcy’s music, Darcy decides to leave the band. Meanwhile, she is realizing that her next-door neighbor and friend, Austin, has a crush on her. Bina though doesn’t feel the same way. It’s a lot to navigate as a middle schooler and it leads to one epic punk reaction that results in Bina starting to speak out for herself.
So often sequels are not as good as the first. Here, the story gets even stronger as we get to see Bina grow into her own voice and her own musical stance. The addition of band drama into the huge changes already happening in middle school makes for true drama that is not overplayed here, but creates moments for growth and self-reflection with some rock and roll thrown in.
Larson’s art is as great and approachable as ever. Done in a limited color palette of black, white and a dusky purple. The art invites readers right into Darcy’s private world, her music and the band.
A rocking sequel that will have fans of the first happily dancing along. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from copy provided by Farrar Straus Giroux.
Ross desperately just wants to be normal, but that isn’t working out for him. After being diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, he has a permanent wink. He goes for treatments each week, making friends with an old guy who is always there as well as with one of the technicians who is desperate to improve Ross’ taste in music. Meanwhile at school, he is steadily becoming stranger as his hair starts to fall out in clumps, he has to use gloppy creams, and he starts to wear a hat all the time. He’s the opposite of normal and the bully in his class definitely notices. But even as he gets further from normal, he starts to figure some things out, like how great it feels to play the guitar even if your fingers are ready to bleed, how amazing it is to play in a band, and how a ton of humor can get you through almost anything.
Based on the author’s personal story, this book takes a unique look at a cancer journey. Harrell’s book is downright hilarious, never allowing the book become too full of the harrowing nature of having a rare cancer and the impacts of the treatment. Ross and Rob are too funny to let that happen, incorporating the adventures of Batpig to help. Through all of the humor a poignancy shines through, allowing those moments of serious crisis to really stand out with their importance and yet also their impermanence.
The book is filled with comic pages, art, and notes. It has hair clumps, face goop, music mixes and more. These graphic elements help to break up the text but also really demonstrate Ross’ skill with art and his quirky sense of humor as he deals with his cancer.
Funny, sarcastic and honest, this is a cancer book with laughter and head-banging music, not tears. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Nic plays cello at school with a zip and a hum, filling the room with his solo. Then he heads home, climbing over fences, rushing past dogs, to get on the bus. It takes him to another part of town where people make fun of his school uniform and wonder what his cello is. As rain falls, the mocking follows him all the way home until he reaches his granddaddy’s apartment that is filled with other musicians all ready to play along with his “bull fiddle.”
Loney celebrates the transforming power of music in this picture book. Her text is very simple, filled with sounds like clapping hands, musical zips and swoops, and noises of rain, buses, and crowds. Then he takes those noises and the stress of the ride home and turns them into music to share. This book also explores the life of a child straddling two communities, demonstrated by one trip home, with music anchoring both parts of his life.
The illustrations are done in acrylic paint. They incorporate strong lines and bright colors. The faces of Nic and other people are done in great detail, contrasting with the world around him which is done in a more stylized feel.
A marvelous musical picture book. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Pokko’s quiet frog parents had made a big mistake giving her the drum. When they tried to discuss it together, they couldn’t hear themselves. So Pokko’s father sends her outside with the drum, asking her to play quietly and not draw attention from anyone. So Pokko heads out quietly. The forest is very quiet, too quiet. So Pokko starts to play her drum. Another animal joins in and follows Pokko. More animals join until they have a parade of music. Back home, it’s lunch time. Pokko’s father listens for her and faintly hears music that is coming closer. He’s about to discover that Pokko can really play that drum!
Forsythe has created a book that is a complete delight. While telling the story of the rather loud and very brave Pokko, he also gives readers moments where the story pauses. These are moments like seeing other gifts Pokko’s parents have given her, like the slingshot and the llama. Forsythe isolates these moments giving them entire pages and time to have real impact. The same happens when Pokko must confront the fox who is eating others in the band. The overall storytelling is just as strong, offering a folktale feel with a modern twist.
The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache and colored pencil. They have a gorgeous sunlit quality to them that is saturated and rich. They use patterns and colors to great effect as well.
Unique and lovely, this is one to beat the drum for! Appropriate for ages 2-4.