Passing the Music Down, by Sarah Sullivan and illustrated by Barry Root for children 4-8 yrs. This engaging book is about traditions and the friendship that forms between a boy and an old-time fiddle player living in Appalachia. This true story is inspired by the relationship of two musicians, Melvin Wine and Jake Krack and the bond they form despite their 75-year age difference. Melvin, a coal minor, was born and raised in West Virginia, where his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been musicians. They passed their music down through their families. The author has done a lovely job of capturing the spirit and rhythm of Melvin and his music, through her lyrical text. The illustrations are bold pastel paintings and capture the essence of the story.
A boy from Indiana travels with his fiddle all the way to the hills of Appalachia to hear the old man play his fiddle. Eager to learn from the man, the boy asks him to “teach me all your tunes?” For the boy wants to play just like the fiddler. The fiddler listens to how the boy plays, and invites his parents to pay a visit at his farm where they play some old-time tunes “older than the towns.” The family moves nearby so the boy can study with the old man. They settle deep inside the music creating a bond so strong that the man begins to share his stories with the boy. The boy develops into a fine musician and travels with the old man playing at American Folk festivals. As the boy grows into a man, he keeps his promise to the old man, to pass the music down.
The First Music, written by Dylan Pritchett and illustrated by Erin Bennett Banks for children 4-8 yrs. Pritchett has had a fascination with African storytelling for years. He gives 200 storytelling performances a year. He is the president of the National Association of Black Storytellers. Prichett’s storytelling takes children to another level filled with rhythm and sounds. Again, another way to pass along the history and traditions. Banks is a master in the use of texture in the oil paintings, which enhance this beautiful storytelling.
The animals living in the west African forest make many sounds. There are Owls that hoot, hyenas that yelp, parrots that screech, monkeys that chitter and crocodiles that snort. The frogs sit on their pads in silence. Everyday more animals join in — an elephant, a crane, a buffalo, a lioness, a hawk — and they play and dance to the sounds each contributes. The frogs listen and ponder. Then one morning at day break, a new sound is heard in the forest — Reep-reep-ree! The frogs have joined the chorus, and realize that when it comes to making music, everyone has something to offer. And, that’s how every animal in the African forest helps keep the music alive. This book is alive with sounds, so as you read the story to children, they too can become the chorus and experience the sounds.
My Selections: I chose these book because in this busy world, our young people are not learning the traditions of their elders, whether it be music, family stories or history. When meeting with author Greg Mortenson last fall, he commented that when he asked children in Pakistan and Afghanistan if they know their family stories, all their hands shot up. When he asked the same questions of America students, only a few hands were raised. So I mention these stories, hoping it will inspire you to share your family traditions and stories with your children. Encourage them to talk with their grandparents and great-grandparents about their lives.