Tag Archives: music

Playing from the Heart

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Playing from the Heart
by Peter H. Reynolds
Candlewick Press, 2016

Raj discovers piano and, with a natural talent and no lessons, creates dreamy music that floats through his house.  He is given piano lessons and his songs become more familiar, crisp and precise.  Yet, while he plays better, he gets more and more tired, until one day he quits playing.  Many years later, his father asks him to play a song.   Reluctantly he moves to the piano.  Then his father asks him to play, “The song without a name,” Raj returns to his early passion and notes emerge whispery and sweet.

The story subtly reminds readers to return to and stay focused on the heart in pursuing their passions.  Pursing ‘perfection’ over ‘joy’ can tarnish and end a joy.

Peter H Reynolds black and white drawings with musical notes featured in color splashes, portrays a whispery, whimsical feel to the music expressed.  Reynolds believes, “Creativity thrives on bravery and originality” and the book does an exquisite job of instilling this in young readers.

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Jack’s Worry

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Jack’s Worry

by Sam Zuppardi
Candlewick Press, 2016

A beautiful portrayal of how worries can cloud over life’s joys, and how they can be faced and tamed.

Jack has been practicing this trumpet for days for his first-ever concert.  But on the morning of the concert a worry appeared in his bedroom.  He tried to hide from it, he tried to run from it, but it followed him and seemed to grow bigger and darker.  When he played his joy, his trumpet, he only made things worse.  Unable to contain his worry, he shouted to his mom, “I don’t want to go!”  In doing so, he found the courage to face his fear and share it with his mom.  By the time he got to the concert, he saw the other kid’s fears and he knew exactly what to do.  Told as much in the loose and moving acrylic and pencil illustrations as in the words, this book can reach and reassure the heart of even the youngest readers as they begin to worry about what’s important to them in life.

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Trombone Shorty

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Trombone Shorty
by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015
2016 Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award Winner

A great celebration of a great musician, written by the musician!  Trombone Shorty played music way before he had an instrument. When he found an old beat-up trombone, twice the size of him, he played it everywhere he went.  Raised in New Orleans, he was born to play music.  While in the audience of a Bo Didley concert, he started playing his trombone.  The show stopped.  Bo asked who was playing the trombone.  He was so short, his mother had to raise him up so Bo could see him.  Trombone Shorty was passed up to the stage and played with Bo Didley at a young age.  Soon after he formed his first band, The 5 O’Clock Band, as that’s when the practiced after they completed their homework.

Readers can feel the joy of music, the love of rhythms, and the passion Trombone Shorty has for his music.  Bryan Collier’s illustrations further enhance the story bringing color and passion to each page.  A wonderful introduction to music, the Mardi-Gras, and following your passion. An afterward includes more details of the musician’s life

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Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music

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Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music
by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
2016 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award 

Inspired by a true story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, the book clearly encourages children to follow their hearts and dreams.

A young girl who loves drumbeats listens to them in fascination.  She listens to the conga drums, the bongo drums and the timbales and imagines herself playing them.  But on her island, only boys can play drums.  She kept her drum-beating dreams to herself, beating and dancing beats when she could, at home, in the parks, or in her dreams.  One day her older sisters invite her to join their all-girl band and she is elated!  Only her traditional father says only boys should play the drums.  So she continues to drum alone.  But then one day her father offers “to find a music teacher who could decide if her drums deserved to be heard.”  The teacher was amazed at her abilities and the girl practiced and practiced.  One day he suggests she play in public, and soon the traditional ways fell aside.

The bright, contrasting colors depict the many moods the drums elicit and bring the drumbeats and rhythms into the reader’s heart.

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Echo

Echo
by Pam Munoz Ryan
Scholastic Press, 2015

From its very first page, I could feel myself being drawn into this story.  Before cracking its covers, I assumed the 561 page book would take three weeks to complete, but I savored every last word on day nine—and, of course, ordered another Pam Munoz Ryan novel!

Echo weaves five stories around a harmonica cast with a witch’s spell.  After the witch does her magic, we experience four stories, as distinct and different as they can be, except they all evolve around music and this special harmonica.  From Germany to both coasts in the US, we follow intriguing young characters re-shaped by the harmonica’s spell.  And the ending is to live for.  Shock.  High emotions. Unexpected.  Satisfying.

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Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin
by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Qin Leng
Kids Can Press, 2014
2015 Ezra Jack Keats Book Award

A story of a gentle spirit who creates a brilliant way to succeed at her dream, despite her newness to the craft.

After three lessons on her violin, Hana decides she want to be in the talent show.  Her brothers laugh at her and say she will be a disaster.  But inspired by her grandfather, a 2nd violinist for a great symphony orchestra in Japan, she pursues her dream.  She remembers her grandfather’s beautiful music she woke to each morning when she visited him last summer.  She also remembers the fun sounds her grandfather made in the evening for her brothers and her.  She practices and practices for the show.  The day of the show she is scared.  Thinking her brothers were right, she wants to turn into a “grain of rice and slip between the floorboards.”  Imagining her grandfather sitting before her for support, she shares with the audience music they can enjoy and she can perform, even as a beginner. Everyone enjoys her performance.  When she and her family return home, her brothers ask for an encore!   Find out what she does to succeed as a beginner!

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Stanza

Stanza
By Jill Esbaum, Illustrated by Jack E. Davis
Harcourt Children’s Books, 2009

Stanza is a great book that shows how street bullies learn to shed their “tough skins” and accept recognition for their “sensitive” talents.  Written in rhyme, it’s a fun, well-developed story.  Creativity and life—expressed in both words and illustrations—jump from each page.  Stanza is a pleasure to read.

Stanza, the youngest of three boys, makes himself out to be a bully to earn the recognition of this two older brothers, but at night his sensitive side wins out and he writes poems—in secret.  He knows full well, that if his brother ever found out, it would be the end of him.

One day Snapper Foods announces a jingle-writing contest and Stanza enters.  In secret, he waits for the results.  He only wins second place—but now his brothers know his secret.  Like he knew they would, his brother ridicule and torture him unmercifully—until…  Snapper Foods delivers a year’s supply of Chicken Pot Pie flavored Snappers.  Immediately the brothers respect their “genius”, “rhyming magician” brother.  Stanza agrees to share the winnings on one condition. The result is the brothers share their artistic and musical talents at a neighborhood show.

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