Friday Book Review: “Remarkable” Musical Children’s Books

Earlier this week, I was reading my son one of his favorite books, when I suddenly realized, I don’t have a book to review on Friday! I’ve been working on three at once on my Kindle, I’ve been doing a lot of reading to research my new novel, and I just started my Shakespeare play for the month (Romeo and Juliet). Other than that, I’ve been delving into comfort books and re-reading favorites, a habit of mine when I’m feeling stressed. None of those books are currently review-able.

But then it occurred to me that I HAVE been reading new books… several times a day! About a month ago, Edwin started transitioning from simpler board books (Sandra Boynton is still a favorite) to longer, more complex books. His current top three favorites share a theme: they are all about music and music-making. (As my husband and I are both musicians and music teachers, we couldn’t be more thrilled about this. And no, we didn’t actively encourage his love of musical books- while we did specifically buy them because WE liked them, they are only three of about three hundred books he owns.)

Edwin Sowul’s top three favorite music books:

The Remarkable Farkle McBride by John Lithgow

“Oh, pity the prodigy, Farkle McBride! No matter what instrument poor Farkle tried, whether strumming, or blowing, or drumming, or bowing, his musical passions were unsatisfied.”

So begins this whimsical, wonderful rhyming book about a boy who grows up with musical talent and passion, yet can’t seem to find the right instrument to play…. until he figures out a way to play them ALL!

I would read this book even if I didn’t have a kid to read it to. The rhymes, rhythmicity, and descriptions are thrillingly good, and the illustrations are fun, almost characiture-esque. (And the instruments are accurately depicted- so many other illustrators draw instruments with keys on the wrong side, or played backwards.)

Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp! by Wynton Marsalis

This book is so much fun to read. It’s a tone poem, using sounds a kid might hear in his house or on the street, interspersed with the sounds of musical instruments:

“Tluck…tlock, tluck…tlock… Our faucet needs a fix.

Tlick-tlock, tlick-tlock… My alarm clock ticks.

Tluuk, tluck, tlawck, tlock, tlaack, tlack, tlick! Pizzicato violinists plick-pluck licks.”

The illustrations are crisp, colorful and cartoonish. Paul Rogers, the illustrator, was the perfect choice to accompany Marsalis’s exuberant words.

Abiyoyo by Pete Seeger

This folktale-turned-storysong is about a boy who plays the ukelele, and how that helps him save the day when a bloodthirsty giant comes to ravage his village.

I love this book’s heroic storyline, multicultural faces, and half-sung dialogue. One thing that bugs me is that Seeger alternates between past and present tense, sometimes within the same sentence. But I’ve learned to accept that as part of the folk-tale feel.

I was saddened by Pete Seeger’s death last week. He was a national treasure, but we in his Hudson Valley home area took his death particularly to heart. He will be greatly missed, but I’m grateful that we have this children’s book as one part of the work he left behind.

Edwin and I hope you all enjoy these musical children’s books! Please share any of your and your kids’ favorite children’s literature below- it doesn’t have to be musical!

My series on cancer continues on Monday. Start the thread with My Cancer Story. Have a great weekend!

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