The Note Who Faced the Music, by Lindsay Bonilla/Illustrated by Mark Hoffman, (March 2023, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645676317
Half Note doesn’t feel like she measures up to the other notes. She can’t fill a whole measure like Whole Note, and she doesn’t have a cute little flag like Eighth Note. Whole Note suggests everyone have a nap, and Half Note decides to run away, deciding that it’s “time to face the music. I’ll never measure up. The staff will be better off without me”. Composer discovers Half Note is missing and panics: she’s integral to the whole piece! Composer comes up with a brilliant idea that will lure Half Note back and assure her that she’s an important part of her musical staff. Filled with musical terminology and puns, anthropomorphic illustrations of friendly-faced musical notes, and colorful artwork, The Note Who Faced the Music is a fun story about teamwork and realizing one’s own worth. A glossary and explanation of musical terms fills the back matter. A good additional purchase where musical books do well.
John’s Turn, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Kate Berube, (Feb. 2022, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536203950
Every Friday, a school cafeteria turns into a place where kids put on performances for one another: an artistic show and tell. This week, it’s John’s turn, and he’s a little nervous. When it’s time, he changes into his leotard, pants, and ballet slippers, and begins to dance. It’s tense at first, as John’s fellow students watch him, but as John gives himself over to the music and the dance, his confidence builds; his joy is evident. At the end of his dance, his classmates cheer and applaud, and John beams, having shared a special moment with them. Kate Berube’s ink and paint illustrations gracefully capture the tension and anticipation that goes into a performance; those moments where the performer goes through the day with butterflies in their stomach, the worry, the pre-show jitters. He knows kids, and the thinking that ballet dancing is largely thought of as “a girl thing”, and the nervous snickers when the music begins. Mac Barnett’s narration is simple, elegant, to the point, and pausing to let Kate Berube shine during the performance: she beautifully captures the shifting emotions surging through John as he begins his dance; a nervous, almost nauseated feeling on his face at first, moving into a slight smile as he moves through the routine, and the background color shifts from a dull brown to a positively incandescent rose as he loses himself in the emotion of his dance, ending with soft pastels as, cheeks flushed, he takes a bow. It’s a gorgeous story.
John’s Turn has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, and BookPage.
I Am Famous, by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie/Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, (March 2018, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807534403
Recommended for readers 3-7
Kiely, a fabulous little girl, knows how to work her fame in this adorable picture book. She’s a true diva with her own sense of style and drama; her movies all go viral, and she gets tons of mail from adoring fans. Sure, the paparazzi are relentless, chasing her when she’s driving, photographing her while she’s eating, and barging in to catch a picture of her in the bathtub, but what do you expect? She’s famous! She’s got a performance at Grandpa’s birthday party, so she has to look and sound her best, but what happens when the grand finale has drama of its own? Pfft, no worries: the fans are loyal.
I Am Famous is just about every kid’s story; they’re little celebrities, as we see here; our world-weary, fierce, brown-skinned beauty tells us, her devoted readers, about the price of fame. I’ve long referred to myself as the Mamarazzi, and have more than a few pictures of each of my kids at the exact moment they’re sick of me and my camera. This light-hearted look at modern childhood comes with easy comparisons to modern celebrity: the viral movies via family Instagrams; the special treatment being a kid gets from just about anyone they meet (so many lollipops); the nonstop love from the fan club via letters and birthday cards from grandparents. Even when Kiely’s performance hits a snag, she gets the star treatment: unconditional love and adoration.
I Am Famous is fun storytime reading, with short, easily readable sentences and wonderfully expressive artwork that sweeps across the pages. This one’s a very cute add to storytime collections and a fun gift for the diva in your family.