First Song Ever Sung

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Melmed and Young strike up a singularly harmonious collaboration in this incandescent picture book. A child asks his relatives to name the first song ever sung, and each supplies a different response. Melmed's text is strikingly musical (the child's brother says, ``The first song ever sung was a proud song, a loud song, a stomping, shaking, shout song,'' while the sister says, ``The first song ever sung was a rope song, a swing song, a jumping, twirling, leap song''). Young, meanwhile, heightens the lyricism by setting the story in a long-ago Japan, his scenes a balance between the slightly abstract and the clearly representational, between the fabulous and the natural. Just as Melmed's ( The Rainbabies ) words invite close attention, Young's imagery compels careful scrutiny--while each spread is immediately arresting, the full impact comes across slowly and luxuriously. The palette is dramatic, occasionally enhanced with metallic inks, yet it never overpowers the story. And because the final response to the boy's question is that of his mother, who sings him a lullaby, this title can double as a bedtime book, ensuring the richest of dreams. Ages 3-up. (May)
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-- Picture book artistry at its best. A perched eagle on the cover soars across the title page, pointing the way to a panorama of snow-covered peaks and a line of Japanese mountain people in traditional costume, carrying with it an aura of stories, legends, and tradition handed down through the generations. A young boy poses the question, ``What was the first song ever sung?'' to each member of his family, his dog, the minnows in the brook, the birds in the sky. They each respond in short poetic prose that embodies their own focus in life. Young has enhanced the character descriptions of the text by portraying each person as both human and animal--father as wild cat, brother as bull, sister as dancing crane, grandmother as spider, grandfather as dragon. Inky blue washes in a variety of shadings serve as backgrounds for the 14 provocative paintings, which have the appearance of batik overlaid with oil pastel or paint--each with its own ambiance, texture, appeal. The borderless double-page illustrations meld perfectly with the text; each one seems more intriguing, more stunning than the last, until the penultimate closeup of mother and child in large-as-life animal form--a strong evocation of love and warmth. A final vignette is a soft portrait of the inquisitive boy on his mother's lap--a quiet ending to a lovely bedtime lapbook. Powerful! --Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Carolyn Phelan
"What was the first song ever sung?" A little boy asks this question of everyone: his parents, siblings, grandparents, even his dog, the minnows, and the birds. Each has a different answer, a poetic string of phrases that defines and reveals the vision and nature of the speaker. In his expressive artwork, Young uses paints and crayon resists to create impressionistic pictures of great beauty, power, and sensitivity. Each being the child addresses is depicted in two double-page spreads, first shown as an animal representing the person's spirit and next as he or she appears to the boy. Though the text could have many settings, Young places it in ancient Japan, drawing on period costumes for dramatic effect, without diminishing the book's universality. An illustrated poem that could be read aloud and discussed with older kids as well as the traditional picture book audience.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688082314
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1993
  • Edition number: 1
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 0.38 (d)

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