This ambitious board book aims to promote an eclectic appreciation for music of all kinds.
Music, from drumming to computer-generated sound, is introduced as a linear historical sequence with two pages devoted to each of 11 styles, including medieval European, orchestral, blues, and more. Most of the musicians are portrayed as children, many with darker skin tones and with hairstyles and garb commonly associated with each type of music. Radford works in a retro cartoon mode, varying his presentation slightly with each new musical style but including a dancing dachshund on almost every spread, presumably to enhance child appeal. Unfortunately, the book just can’t succeed in reducing such a wide range of musical styles to toddler-appropriate language. The first two spreads read: “We start with clapping, tapping, and drums. // Lutes, flutes, and words are what we become.” The accompanying illustrations show, respectively, half-naked drummers and European court figures reading, writing, and playing a flute. Both spreads feature both brown-skinned and pale-skinned figures. At first reading this seems innocent enough, but the implication that clapping and drumming are somehow less civilized or sophisticated than a European style is reinforced in Stosuy’s glossary of music terms. He describes “Prehistoric Music” as “rhythmic music [made] with rocks, sticks, bones, and…voices,” while “Renaissance Music” is defined as “multiple melodies played at the same time.”
The history of music is a big topic, and more-nuanced explanation is needed than the format allows. (Board book. 2-4)