Two picture books in the past couple of years have explored the possible ways that humans first discovered music and drawing. These titles would make a great starting point for students studying early humans and their world or just a fun read aloud for families.
The First Drawing by Mordecai Gerstein; Little, Brown; 17.00; Ages 3-7
Mordecai Gerstein sends the reader back in time with his first images and sentences in The First Drawing, about a boy living “…thirty thousand years ago.” In present tense sentences that give a sense of immediacy, Gerstein sketches the reader’s life back then: “You live in a cave with your parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers…and your wolf Shadow.” “You love to watch animals.” Illustrations with bright color and scratchy line quality show how the protagonist (you) looks at clouds and stones and sees animals there, that no one else in the family can see. After an encounter with a woolly mammoth, while sitting by the fire, the young artist finally finds a way to show the rest of the family these visions–in drawings on the cave wall. After initial panic (the father throws a spear at the wall, expecting the drawing of the mammoth to charge) everyone agrees that “It’s MAGIC!” which, of course it was. And still is. In his author’s note, Gerstein points out that children are much more likely to draw than adults…so it makes sense that the first person to invent drawing was probably a child. Read this book and then do some drawing, of woolly mammoths or whatever you like!
Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter; Random House; 16.99; Ages 3-7
Jeanette Winter imagines a somewhat similar tale about discovering music in Kali’s Song (complete with another woolly mammoth on the cover.) Kali is familiar with drawing, as his mother paints animals on their cave wall and tells him “soon you’ll hunt and kill animals like those.” Kali’s father gives him a bow so that he can practice shooting, but Kali soon discovers another use for the weapon: plucking the string to make music. As in Gerstein’s book, family members are astonished by this new idea and honor Kali for his talents. This book would be fun read aloud for young musicians, kids interested in history or anyone interested in wondering a little about the past.
Amanda’s Pick: Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
After the death of her younger brother, Andi Alpers is clinically depressed and prescribed a myriad of anti-depressants to help her to cope with the loss. No matter what she does, it seems nothing is working to bring her out of the darkness. She’s doing terribly in school and only finds peace while playing her guitar or studying music. To top it all off, her father forces her to go to Paris with him on a business trip, where he’s performing a DNA study on a preserved human heart to see if it’s the son of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Andi knows she is going to be bored and is eager to continue her plan to end her life.
In Paris, Andi is supposed to begin an in-depth study of a French composer for school, but instead of focusing on that, she can only focus on the diary she finds, written by Alexandrine, a young companion to the son of Louis and Marie Antoinette. And in the midst of discovering more about Alexandrine and her life during the French Revolution, Andi also meets a boy. A special boy that starts to transform her attitude about the world.
There’s an impressive amount of detail on every page and the fact vs. fiction aspects of the story are incredible. Obviously the French Revolution was real, as were the people referred to in the book, yet the seamless weaving of a contemporary fictional story and with historical fact was amazing.
Donnelly’s prose evokes sadness and despair. You’ll find yourself lost in both Andi’s and Alexandrine’s worlds and their fight for survival. Andi’s sadness just pours off the page and her emotional state is ultimately transferred the the reader.
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, Delacorte Press, YA
The trio of Rocknoceros rocked our storytime corner Saturday, January 23rd with music from the new album Pink! Coach, Williebob, and Boogie played to a pakced crowd of kids and adults keeping them clapping, boppin’ and hoppin’ to the fun music. The trio even played a locale specific song with “Virginia.” Everyone enjoyed the ode to our homestate. Rocknoceros talent on the guitar, tamborine and acordian kept the crowd engaged through the entire show. You can check out part of their performance and our interview with them on our YouTube Channel as well as on the Rocknoceros website.