Tuesday, February 05, 2008


FIVE NICE MICE by Chisato Tashiro (Miniedition/Penguin)
"Frog Concert, Frogs Only" reads the sign, but a band of music-loving mice sneak in anyway. Despite their enthusiasm, they are escorted out, and the only choice they have left is to make their own instruments and host a more inclusive concert. This book risks being a sleeper, or a "squeaker," as the case may be, since it's hard to tell from the title what this book is really about. Inside, it truly embodies the spirit of Vivian Gussman Paley's preschool philosophy, YOU CAN'T SAY YOU CAN'T PLAY, as sharing and asking people to join in a circle of play are what makes this story hit such a high note. This book also captures a proactive spirit of inventiveness as the mice seek and find everyday items to create their instruments, and will inspire children to do the same. Best of all are the expressive, detailed and very sweet illustrations: a lone mouse peeking out from behind a velvet curtain, into the shadowy double-page spread of an awaiting audience; little mice hands aligning pencils like keys of a xylophone and stretching cheese cloth over a tomato can to make a drum; a joyful choir of wide-mouth frogs and euphoric mice making beautiful music...together! (4 and up)

Also of interest:
Music, music, music, in words and pictures!

GERSHWIN'S RHAPSODY IN BLUE by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by JoAnn Kitchel (Charlesbridge) (nonfiction) American composer George Gershwin discovered by reading the newspaper that he was scheduled to debut a jazz concerto at a concert to be attended by the world's musical elite in a matter of five weeks, a publicity stunt pulled by an ambitious promoter. It seems like an impossible task, until George tunes in to the tempo of New York. "Klezmer, foxtrot, ragtime and blues. My concerto will be a tuneful kaleidoscope--a rhapsody about the music that surrounds me!" This is a wonderfully readable picture book biography celebrates how an artist synthesized what was around him in order to create a masterpiece; as George heard music in the train moving on the track, can children hear the music that surrounds them? This book also includes a CD recording of Gershwin performing Rhapsody in Blue in 1925! Everyone in America needs to know this piece of our cultural heritage outside of the commercial ditty co-opted for American Airlines, and this sure is a delightful way to receive it. (6 and up)

PUNK FARM and PUNK FARM ON TOUR by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Knopf) (picture books) Those with less erudite musical tastes might enjoy rocking out to "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," yeah yeah YEAAAHHHH, complete with electric guitar and microphone to scream into, or follow the barnyard band like a groupie as the wheels of their tour van go round and round. These books are a scream in more ways than one, just the ticket if you know a toddler with a mohawk, or want to add a contemporary beat to your storytime. "Thank you, Wisconsin!" (4 and up)

FOOTWORK: THE STORY OF FRED AND ADELE ASTAIRE by Roxanne Orgill, illustrated by Stéphanie Jorisch (Candlewick) (nonfiction) Before becoming tap-dancing king of the silver screen, Fred Astaire was on toe shoes atop a wooden wedding cake, playing the role of best friend and brother in his Vaudevillian family. Sensitive ink lines and watercolor washes capture the grace of the dancers and the tin-pan alley feel of the era. Hard knocks and high points mark the lesser-known part of Astaire's career, lending a new appreciation of the man leading Ginger Rogers, climbing staircases in slow motion, dancing with brooms, performing origami with his feet and dancing on the ceiling. Read, and then watch THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT to choreograph a few good steps toward a knowledge of Hollywood musicals. (7 and up)

MEET THE MUSICIANS: FROM PRODIGIES (OR NOT) TO PROS by Amy Nathan, featuring members of New York Philharmonic (Holt) (nonfiction) Virtuosos make performance look easy, but this book goes into all the sections of the orchestra to show the years and hard work and even a little whining that went into these successful careers. Full of great advice, "practice tips" in the sidelines to keep young musical hopefuls on track, photographs of the musicians as well as data (age they started playing, pets, favorite books as a kid, things that show they have outside interests and were children once, too), and "concert watch" insider items to look for as an audience member. This book is really a jewel for any child who has dreamed of being a professional musician, or has complained about having to practice their instrument. They'll find they are in very good company! (9 and up)

PIANO PIANO by Davide Cali,illustrated by Eric Heliot (Charlesbridge) Having her own dreams of being a concert pianist thwarted, Marcolino's mom generously imposes her ambition on her son, who would rather watch cartoons and dream of other occupations like magician, pirate and karate champion. When Grandpa sees that the piano is not Marcolino's forté, will an old photo album be the key to his daughter's balance, and helping his grandson find the instrument that suits him best? Funny, stylized illustrations underscore this poignant story that reminds us each child marches to his own drummer, prances to his own piano, or trots to his own tuba. (5 and up) Follow with the bizarro THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T, a surrealistic retro live-action tribute to all the long-suffering young piano-practicers, orchestrated by none other than Dr. Seuss. (7 and up)

JUKEBOX by David Merveille (Kane/Miller) Perhaps, as a child, you remember going up to a jukebox, putting in a coin and choosing a song that really reflects your taste (or like me, skittering away before anyone could see it was I who chose "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers). This excitement is well-captured in this near-wordless picture book, as each person walks across a white background, chooses a song, and has the musical genre celebrated in a full-color page. Hip-hop! Country! Hawaiian music! Marching bands! Disco! Blues! Children can do their own artistic interpretations of their favorite musical style. Conceptually unique and a celebration of musical diversity, it's fun to turn the page and discover who is up next on the playlist. (5 and up)

JAZZ ABZ: A COLLECTION OF JAZZ PORTRAITS by Wynton Marsalis and Phil Schapp, illustrated by Paul Rogers. From Louis Armstrong to Dizzy Gillespie and every hep cat in between, this book gets it's bass beat from trumpeter Marsalis's true passion for the subject. The poetry calls out for reading while wearing a black turtlenecks and the playing of music by the featured artist in the background, and for those squares who still can't dig it, short, straightforward biographical notes are in the back. Art inspired by record covers boasts a bold, enigmatic palette and lines so crisp, they snap along with the music. Heavy and handsome, this book is a great gift for an adult jazz enthusiast, but also a solid pick for Black History Month. (8 and up)

All this tuneful inspiration, just in time for the new season of American Idol! And be sure to check out the article "Rock 'n Read Library Idol" by Carol Thompson in the "Keep 'em Reading" section of my favorite trade magazine, Library Sparks (sorry, no direct link to the article, but you can request a sample copy of the magazine). I loved the musical reference questions (such as what are the four groups of musical instruments, what years make up the classical music era, who were the members of The Beatles?) musical jokes (What did the guitar say to the guitarist? Stop picking on me!) and party menu (featuring treats like Ruben Studdard teddy bear cookies, and Simon Cowell sour tarts). Great job, Carol!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

1 comment:

AMY T said...

I love the new picture at the top of your page. The math stuff on the wall, the sink, the filing cabinet, and all the eager, your bending forward, and all the kids' eager gazes--so beautiful. And thanks for all the recs. You always help me keep my librarians hopping!


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