Playing from the Heart
Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator
Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2016
Suitable for Ages: 4 – 99
Themes: Music, Piano lessons, Creativity, Family relationships, Father and son, Love
Opening: “The piano stood quietly in the living room for years. Until the day Raj first plunked and pushed the keys, delighted by every sound.”
Synopsis: A boy discovers the beautiful sounds he can make when he thumps the keys of the family piano. His father notices his son, Raj, has a gift for playing from his heart and signs him up for lessons. Raj begins to read notes, learn scales, studies hard and plays classical music. He practices hard and becomes an excellent pianist over the years. One day he realizes that he doesn’t experience the joy he used to feel and stops playing. Years pass and Raj takes a job in the city. When he receives a call that his father is ill, he hurries home. His father makes a special request for Raj to play the music that first brought him joy.
Why I like this book:
Peter H. Reynolds’ newest treasure, Playing from the Heart, is a timeless story for both children and adults. He hopes that as children become more involved with a musical instrument, “they won’t forget their original joy” and learn to “bend a few rules.” The lyrical text sings from the pages. Reynolds’ illustrations are joyful, serious, emotive and lovingly rendered in black ink with splashes of color. His ample use of white space gives one a sense of freedom.
Playing from the Heart will touch a chord in both young and old who have played an instrument and given it up. I played the piano for years, took a break because of burn out, and returned to my lessons with renewed enthusiasm. When my husband read Reynolds’ story it stirred up memories of giving up his trumpet in college.
The ending is endearing as Raj sits down to the piano and hopes his heart will remember the joyful melodies he played with such abandonment as a child. There’s heart, there’s love, and there’s a deep connection between father and son. Playing from the Heart is a winner!
Resources: Introduce your child to a musical instrument. It can be a simple as a kazoo, harmonica, drums or xylophone. Encourage your children to be creative and make their own music. If you have a piano, let them play without teaching them. According to Reynolds, “Creativity thrives on bravery and originality. Let that flow and see where you go.” Visit the award-winning author and illustrator at his website.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.