A boy discovers a world of danger—and music—in this fantastic nearly wordless picture book by veteran Bartlett (Tuba Lessons, 2009).
In a black-and-white world, a young boy leaves home to go to attend his drum lesson. His mother’s admonished him not to stray from the path, but, in the long tradition of fairy tales, he just can’t help himself and soon takes a path into the woods. First, he climbs the trees, using his drum as a stool to reach higher branches, and then he hangs upside down. Finally, he perceives musical notes—the first spots of color in the book—at the edge of his hearing. As he follows their call, the world becomes a marvelous, vivid place, and he meets a group of cartoonish woodland creatures (plus one giraffe and one penguin), all singing together. The drummer grabs his gear and joins them, pounding black musical notes into the air. Not wanting to be left out, a lion bounds onto the scene, roaring huge notes that bowl everyone over. Although the drummer scolds the lion, the great cat has the last word—a note that topples the drummer over a cliff in a fantastic two-page spread that requires readers to turn the book 90 degrees. With the help of the other animals, the lion pulls the drummer to safety. After another jam session, the boy departs—only to wake up in black-and-white again near his music teacher’s home. For readers familiar with Bartlett’s Tuba Lessons, which was illustrated by Monique Felix, this plot won’t be a new one. Indeed, this story is nearly identical to the one in that earlier, celebrated volume. But here, Bartlett presents his own original artwork, showing the story the way he envisions it. Both the text and pictures are delightful throughout, and even if readers already own Tuba Lessons, there’s enough joy here in the illustrations alone to merit reading—or owning—this version as well.
A wonderful tale of imagination about the magic of marching to the beat of one’s own drum—even if it takes one in an unexpected direction.