The moon and stars aligned last Saturday, and I was in London for the launch of today’s Perfect Picture Book. What fun to check out New Beacon Books, a north London bookstore that has specialized in African and Caribbean literature since 1966, and participate in the lively book launch, featuring dancing, stomping and clapping.
Title: The Drum
Written By: Ken Wilson-Max
Illustrated By: Catell Ronca
Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/2018
Suitable for Ages: 2-5
Themes/Topics: music; motion; diversity; poetry; self-expression
This is the drum
This is the beat
Brief Synopsis: A diverse group of children enjoys moving to the beat of a drum.
Links to Resources:
- Make a drum;
- Listen to drum music;
- Read about a young Cuban girl who wanted to play the drums in Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl – music, especially the beat of drums, really is universal!
Why I Like this Book:
The drum takes center stage in the first in the Children Music Life series of picture books designed to get children moving and feeling the musical beat. With its diverse cast of characters, The Drum presents a lively celebration of how music unites peoples of different races, ethnicities, genders, ages and socioeconomic status.
I think children and adults will enjoy hearing, over and over again (as young children often ask for beloved books), Wilson-Max’s song-like text and following his prompts to move to the music. As I experienced at the book launch, even very young children were quick to repeat his poetic text, word for word, as they followed the prompts to clap hands, stomp feet, shake shoulders, and move their bodies. Best of all, it was clear that the message to “feel the drum in your heart” was heeded. I could easily envision kids, and maybe some adults, leaving the launch, or finishing a reading, and being inspired to beat on whatever drum-like surface they could find or make.
Ronca’s bright illustrations that seem to jump off the pages are the perfect accompaniment to Wilson-Max’s staccato text. With minimal backgrounds and a mixture of clothing styles, including many fabrics that could be African or Caribbean inspired, the focus is on the smiling faces and moving bodies of the diverse participants. As Ronca stated in a recent interview, “I wanted the colours to communicate life and make the visuals as striking as possible.” I think you’ll agree that she succeeded.
The Drum is a great addition to home, classroom and nursery school bookshelves, especially for those desiring to build a diverse library or teach listening and basic musical skills.
A Note about Craft:
With its low word count (about 80 words total), Wilson-Max’s staccato, poetic text mimics the beats of a drum and encourages repetition. This suits the subject matter of The Drum well, I believe, and brought to mind Baptiste Paul’s poetic language in The Field that, to my mind, mimicked the back and forth action of a soccer match. In addition, Wilson-Max’s short, rhythmic language is perfect for younger listeners, like those in nursery schools or music appreciation classes. It’s clear that he tailored his words not just to the subject matter but also to the young ages of his target listeners.
Tiny Owl Publishing Ltd is an independent publishing company in the UK “committed to producing beautiful, original books for children”, and founded on the “belief that stories act as bridges – providing pathways to new experiences whilst connecting us to here and there.”
While not currently available in US book shops, The Drum is available through the Book Depository, which ships for free to the US and around the world.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!