Children's Literature - Sharon Oliver
In an author's note at the end of the book, Pritchett tells us he was inspired by visits to Africa to tell this story of the first music. Pritchett uses this book as a FORMAT: for storytelling as an art form and succeeds admirably. He tells us in his tale that in the beginning the African forest has many sounds: hyenas yelping, owls hooting, and monkeys chattering, among others. The only animals that are silent are the frogs. One day the elephant stubs his foot on a log and begins beating his foot on the hollow log. The animals like this sound produced by the elephant and each adds his own sound to the music. For six days, they continue the jungle concert and only the frogs are silent. On the seventh day, the animals decide to rest. Suddenly, the silence is broken by the "Reep-reep-ree!" of the frogs, who have finally found their bit to contribute. This is a wonderful story in its own right, with the message that everyone has something of beauty to contribute. Add to that the wonderful, earth-toned illustrations, and it becomes a beautiful picture book as well. This would be a wonderful read-aloud, with all the animal sounds sure to catch the attention and participation of young listeners. Pritchett, who is a well-known storyteller has made an effortless transition to picture book author. This is an outstanding addition to picture book, folktale, or storytelling collections.
School Library Journal
Pritchett's original story gives a folkloric explanation for the development of polyrhythmic and polyphonic music. At first, all the African animals make their sounds without regard to the others. One day, almost by accident, they listen to Elephant stomping, "Padada BOOM-pada BOOM!" and begin to add their own rhythms and voices ("Shh-ka-shh!," "Skee-de-lee!," etc.), and the resultant dance party goes on for days. Only the frogs sit listening on the periphery. Finally, in the quiet dawn of the seventh day, the frogs lift their voices: "Reep-reep-ree!" and before long everyone else joins in. This book practically insists upon audience participation. The stylized earth-toned illustrations employ patterns found in African carvings and fabrics to good effect. In the right hands (and feet and voices), this will make for a rousing storytime.
Miriam Lang BudinCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Pritchett offers a stylish telling of an original how and why story. The animals in the African forest realize that their disparate sounds are actually music. It begins with the gathered animals making their individuals noises: "Hyena yelped . . . monkey chittered." But when the elephant starts beating on a hollow log with his foot, his rhythm-"Boom boom boom boom padadada boom!"-captures the fancy of the other animals. All join in except the silent frogs, watching from their lily pads. The jam sessions accelerate, with dancing and improvised beats, and on the seventh day the silence of the forest is broken by the "Reep-reep-ree!" of the frogs. King Frog croaks out the beat, and everyone is part of the animal orchestra. Banks's stylized oil paintings give the African forest a rich, dark beauty. In an author's note, Pritchett offers helpful suggestions for listener participation. (Picture book. 3-7)