Eager to play like other Traveler musicians, a Romani girl constructs her own musical instrument from a willow branch and recycled objects and is surprised by the results.
When Ossiri begins to play the new instrument she calls a Tattin Django, the ugly noises it makes disturb the community. Soon she is warned that her playing will wake the Bala Mengro, a huge, hairy ogre. Ossiri moves beyond the campsite to play alone and is immediately surprised by the emergence of the large monster from his cave. Frightened, she begs to be allowed to leave, but the ogre insists on her playing more and begins to sing and dance to the ugly sounds. He then pays her with a silver necklace, so she plays for him daily, earning another piece of gold each time. When a stranger tricks her and steals her instrument, his playing for the ogre does not produce the expected generous results. Ossiri finds only her Tattin Django and the stranger’s boots outside the ogre’s cave and realizes that her inner desire to play rather than wanting riches truly impressed the Bala Mengro. Scenes set within their rural encampment show a family of light-brown–skinned “rag-and-bone” people in long skirts, bandanna scarves, and hooped earrings making a living from recycled items, as explained in the author’s note. The inclusion of trucks, vans, and camper caravans along with horse-drawn vehicles makes clear to readers that the story is set in the present day.
A familiar theme told from a distinct cultural and oral tradition by a Romani storyteller from England. (Picture book. 5-8)