March to the Beat of Your Own Drum
It’s Music in our Schools Month and these recent titles on music (and` loneliness, getting lost, Vivaldi, and being a big sister) and so much more will make you want to groove, rock n’ roll, waltz, and bang your head. So swing to the rhythms, bounce to the beat, sway to the poetic meter, and drift away with these soulful stories.
By Amy Martin
In Amy Martin’s bold debut, a little girl becomes lost in the big city and follows street musicians until she finds her way home. Her hypnotic illustrations will pull young readers into the story where “the best songs love you back.” If Martin’s Symphony City is any indication, McMullens, the new children’s imprint from McSweeney’s, promises dazzling hits that just keep on coming. (Ages 3 and up. Publisher: McSweeney’s Publishing.)
Ever dream of rocking out on stage in front of a coliseum full of fans chanting your name? Then Vernick’s new book So You Want To Be A Rock Star will send your little ones into fits of laughter as you shout, “Are you ready to rock?” Tips on posturing, strutting on stage, and signing your autograph in a haughty squiggle will put stars in their eyes. My daughter’s reading inspired her to create a rock video with a friend. For more on Audrey Vernick, check out my interview with her. (Ages 4-8. Publisher: Walker & Company.)
As with his previous book Mozart Finds a Melody, Stephen Costanza celebrates another great composer and creates a compelling backstory to bring his tale to life. Candida is Antonio Vivaldi’s young assistant who copies his musical notations for the Invisible Orchestra- a group of orphan musicians who mysteriously perform behind the curtain. When Vivaldi sees Candida’s poetry written in the margins, he creates one of his most famous concertos: The Four Seasons. Costanza’s soft illustrations add a gentle glow to this lovely book for daydreamers like Candida and Vivaldi. (Ages 6-10. Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.)
While working as a docent at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Jeanne Walker Harvey first encountered Romare Bearden’s striking collage paintings and decided to write this touching book. Told in a jazzy rhyme that makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into the Harlem Renaissance, she has created a superb tribute to Bearden’s life and work. Elizabeth Zunon’s colorful collage-like illustrations capture Bearden’s childhood in North Carolina, life in Harlem, and most poignantly his vibrant artwork. For more details on Jeanne Walker Harvey’s books, read my interview with her. (Ages 5-8. Publisher: Marshall Cavendish.)
By Kevin Henkes
Now that Penny is a new big sister, she really wants to get her parents’ attention as they have been preoccupied by her baby siblings. Won’t someone listen to her song? This winning story focuses on Penny’s frustrations, but everyone soon learns to sing together. As always, Kevin Henkes pens a sweet lullaby for growing families and it comes with an adorable Penny doll. (Ages 4 to 8. Publisher: HarperCollins.)
It seems as if nowadays everyone is trying to ignore/hide/squelch/numb their pain. In Everybody Gets the Blues, Leslie Staub recognizes how important it is to wallow in your misery, to sit with the sadness and let it fill you up until you spill over with tears and all of life’s frustrations. She encourages readers to recognize that to feel is to live, sadness is a fundamental part of life, the release of pain is cathartic and it just might make you feel better. Highly recommended! (Ages 4 to 8. Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.)
By John Manders
The Really Awful Musicians is really awfully fun. Like a classic Disney film, John Manders’s illustrations are so animated they seem to be moving as you turn the pages. Appalled by his royal musician’s horrid playing, the king decrees that music will be banned throughout the kingdom. A merry (and very silly) band of musicians unite and learn to read music together. When the king hears them rehearsing, the ban is lifted and beautiful music is enjoyed once again by all.
Nicki Richesin is the editor of four anthologies,What I Would Tell Her: 28 Devoted Dads on Bringing Up, Holding On To, and Letting Go of Their Daughters; Because I Love Her: 34 Women Writers Reflect on the Mother-Daughter Bond; Crush: 26 Real-Life Tales of First Love; and The May Queen: Women on Life, Work, and Pulling it all Together in your Thirties. Her anthologies have been excerpted and praised in The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Boston Globe, Redbook, Parenting, Cosmopolitan, Bust, Salon, Daily Candy, and Babble.