In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Books with a good beat

Dear Aunt Debbie,

What a wedding! It's taking us more than a day to recuperate.  As we return to normal life here, images from the past week of family celebration keep floating through my mind.  One of my favorites has got to be Eleanor dancing behind the New Orleans-style second line band leading the guests to the ceremony (a brilliant idea for a wedding, by the way).  From infancy, Eleanor has loved a good beat -- we used to calm her colicky crying with Jimi Hendrix -- and Isabel is now the same way.

I've been thinking about books that mimic the rhythm and feel of a good song.  Two of our favorites are board books about music, one with some historical content, and one that's just good and silly.

Chris Raschka's Charlie Parker Played Be Bop reads like a jazz riff.  It provides the absolute basic facts about the jazz great Charlie Parker: "Charlie Parker played be bop.  Charlie Parker played saxophone."  and then goes into what the music sounds like, with rhyming rhythmic words: "Be bop.  Fisk, fisk. Lollipop.  Boomba, boomba.  Bus stop.  Zznnzznn.  Boppity, bibbity, bop...."  Raschka's illustrations include dancing boots and chickadees, and a sour-looking black cat ("Never leave your cat alone.").  It's impossible to read this book without bopping and tapping your foot yourself.

Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb
is nonsense rhyme about monkeys drumming on drums.  It, too, asks for a reading with steady rhythm: "Hand, hand, fingers, thumb.  One thumb, one thumb, drumming on a drum.  One hand, two hands, drumming on a drum.  Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum."  I think I have the whole thing memorized.  The monkeys in Eric Gurney's drawings are so pleased with themselves and their drumming, and the book is so joyful and silly, that it's been one of our favorites for ages.

I'm sure there are more music-related books out there that mimic the feel of the songs they write about -- do you have some favorites in this category?

Love, Annie

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