Harmonica Night

Harmonica Night

by M.C. Helldorfer
     
 

When the lights go out and the moon comes up, a little boy and his Gram take to the beach to play. One by one, they are joined by a cast of family characters who become part of a fanciful midnight adventure. But even pirates, a ghost, and a sea monster get sleepy when the mist comes in and Uncle Pat takes out his harmonica.

M. C. Helldorfer's warm, lyrical story and

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Overview

When the lights go out and the moon comes up, a little boy and his Gram take to the beach to play. One by one, they are joined by a cast of family characters who become part of a fanciful midnight adventure. But even pirates, a ghost, and a sea monster get sleepy when the mist comes in and Uncle Pat takes out his harmonica.

M. C. Helldorfer's warm, lyrical story and Alexi Natchev's bright, playful art perfectly capture the magic and fun of a late-night romp on the beach.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Helldorfer's (Jack, Skinny Bones, and the Golden Pancakes) disjointed story takes on a familiar theme-the nighttime fantasy adventure of a sleepless child. Here, a boy becomes a pirate and goes on a sea voyage with a motley cast of characters who are also members of his family. From the start, the story's underlying logic is weak and it progressively deteriorates as various relatives are introduced. Gramma is the first, but it isn't clear where she comes from or why she leads the boy to the beach outside their home. In each spread, Natchev's (Forri the Baker) pictures introduce new elements that add to the confusion. For example, in the spread in which Uncle Pat appears, the boy is suddenly dressed as a pirate, without any indication of where he found the costume. Eventually, the whole family, Mom and Dad included, ends up on the beach and Uncle Pat plays the harmonica, signaling the end of the fantasy and time for bed. While Natchev's illustrations contain many imaginative and enjoyable departures from the text (Aunt Jane's skirt is Sea Monster Isle, Mom is cast as an underwater sea monster), they fight with Helldorfer's words. Neither text nor art fills in necessary details to hold the story together, resulting in a frustrating reading experience.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Helldorfer's (Jack, Skinny Bones, and the Golden Pancakes) disjointed story takes on a familiar themethe nighttime fantasy adventure of a sleepless child. Here, a boy becomes a pirate and goes on a sea voyage with a motley cast of characters who are also members of his family. From the start, the story's underlying logic is weak and it progressively deteriorates as various relatives are introduced. Gramma is the first, but it isn't clear where she comes from or why she leads the boy to the beach outside their home. In each spread, Natchev's (Forri the Baker) pictures introduce new elements that add to the confusion. For example, in the spread in which Uncle Pat appears, the boy is suddenly dressed as a pirate, without any indication of where he found the costume. Eventually, the whole family, Mom and Dad included, ends up on the beach and Uncle Pat plays the harmonica, signaling the end of the fantasy and time for bed. While Natchev's illustrations contain many imaginative and enjoyable departures from the text (Aunt Jane's skirt is Sea Monster Isle, Mom is cast as an underwater sea monster), they fight with Helldorfer's words. Neither text nor art fills in necessary details to hold the story together, resulting in a frustrating reading experience. Ages 5-9. (May)
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
It's nighttime and a young boy slips out of bed and joins his grandma as they head out to the beach. One by one other members of the family come and join the adventure. Then they all sit around the beach fire while Uncle Pat plays his harmonica until it is time to really turn in for the night. A fantasy adventure accompanied by a series of equally fanciful pictures.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
K-Gr 3In this fantastical nighttime adventure, a boy and his Gram take a moonlit walk on the beach. Soon, they are joined by other family members on an imaginative journey that includes pirate ships, ghosts, and monsters. Drama turns to dreamland when Uncle Pat begins to play his harmonicaa "duet with a foghorn." Zany line-and-wash cartoon illustrations filled with multiple images, textures, and styles accentuate the wildly ambiguous sense of the nocturnal adventure. The portrayal of the charactersthe boy in his sailor suit; Gram with her feathered hat and parasol; and Uncle Pat, who resembles a pajama-clad barbershop-quartet singersuggest this is no ordinary family. Unfortunately, the text is not strong enough to support the madcap illustrations. Literal-minded young readers will not appreciate the attempts at poetic descriptione.g., "the moon has tossed a silver net." They may be confused by the story. Is it imaginative play or storytelling or is it really happening? Readers who are sophisticated enough to enjoy the ambiguous nature of the text will want a more developed adventure than this slight story offers. An imaginative idea that falls short of its creative potential.Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI
Kirkus Reviews
The ocean is the magnet that draws a family out at night for a moonlight picnic. A little boy and his grandmother tiptoe outside in the dark, to play at being pirates with Uncle Pat, to be spooked by sister Nell in her ghostly nightgown, and to be nearly abducted by a sea monster—Mom. Grandad builds a campfire to scare away real sea monsters, and the family sips juice and munches crackers, listening to Uncle Pat's harmonica music while the moon sets. When the night comes to a close, the young narrator falls asleep back in his own bed, with the barely audible murmur of the sea as his lullaby. The poetic text makes jumps that very young readers will find confusing, e.g., the leap between "Mom" and the sea monster. But vivid watercolor washes that superimpose an astronomer's chart on moonglow and a map on Aunt Jane's dress, combined with Helldorfer's many apt turns of phrase, will make readers hear the ocean in conch shells, taste salt air, and recall the feeling of sand beneath their toes as they turn these pages.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780689805325
Publisher:
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
05/01/1997
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
8.16(w) x 10.30(h) x 0.32(d)
Lexile:
520L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

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