Manuelo, The Playing Mantis by Don Freeman, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Manuelo, The Playing Mantis

Manuelo, The Playing Mantis

by Don Freeman, Lisa McCue
     
 

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When Don Freeman died in 1978, he left behind illustrations and a finished manuscript for a story that was close to his heart. Freeman himself was a professional trumpeter and he was working on the story of a creature who loved music—but couldn't make any himself.

Manuelo is a praying mantis who spends summer evenings listening raptly to outdoor concerts.

Overview

When Don Freeman died in 1978, he left behind illustrations and a finished manuscript for a story that was close to his heart. Freeman himself was a professional trumpeter and he was working on the story of a creature who loved music—but couldn't make any himself.

Manuelo is a praying mantis who spends summer evenings listening raptly to outdoor concerts. How he longs to join in! But though he tries to make a flute from a cattail, a horn from a trumpet flower, and a harp from twigs, nothing seems to work. But then Manuelo makes a friend who shows him how to create a cello . . . and in doing so opens the door to Manuelo's heart's desire.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this posthumously published work (the publisher notes in its catalogue that Freeman "left behind illustrations and a finished manuscript" for the story), the creator of Corduroy presents a gentle tale of determination and friendship. A music-loving praying mantis listens appreciatively to an orchestra performing on an outdoor stage. Longing to become a musician himself, Manuelo is disappointed to discover that he makes no sound when he rubs his legs against his wings ("the way crickets and grasshoppers and katydids do whenever they sing") and sets out to find an instrument to play. He attempts to fashion a flute from a hollow cattail, blow into a trumpet flower and form a harp from a "twisty twig" and cobweb strands-all to no avail. An enterprising spider comes to Manuelo's rescue, suggesting that together they might make a cello (but insists, "first of all you must promise not to eat me!"), and they accomplish their mission. A watercolor illustration in twilight shades shows the previous skeptics converted, as grasshoppers and frogs gather to watch the praying mantis who is now a playing mantis, using a bluebird's feather as a bow on his homemade cello. The audience members contribute their own music to create a "glorious insect symphony." Freeman's wispy, occasionally unfinished-looking art ably animates this breezily written story with an upbeat ending. Ages 3-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Manuelo, a lonely praying mantis, enjoys the concerts on summer evenings and longs to be able to make music himself. He tries to construct instruments like those he particularly likes, a flute, a horn, a harp, but none produce music. Laughed at by other creatures, Manuelo is discouraged. But a small spider named Debby Webster has been watching him and is ready to work with him to make a cello. Together they fashion an instrument with which Manuelo produces music to enchant the creatures of meadow and pond. All join in a "glorious insect symphony." And every summer night Manuelo plays with Debby at his side. There is a delicacy in the fine ink lines which structure the insects and plants along with a lightness to the application of pastel colors which incorporate areas of the white page seamlessly. The scene of Manuelo's first concert, with rainbow-like colors flowing from his walnut cello had a special magical feeling, making it easy for us to imagine the music. Although he died in 1978, the creator of Corduroy and other memorable characters has left us this legacy, with just a few of the illustrations created by Jody Wheeler from his original sketches. 2004, Viking/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 4 to 8.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Though Freeman died in 1978, his love for storytelling and, in particular, his love for music live on through this previously unpublished tale of determination personified in the character of a praying mantis. The lonely insect longs to join other creatures in making music, but lacks the chirp of the crickets or the croak of the frogs. He also fails at building his own instruments, as a reed made into a flute makes no noise, the flower of a trumpet vine does not blow, and his "snippy" claws break the strings of a twig-and-cobweb harp. Finally, an intelligent and observant spider agrees to help him, if he promises not to eat her for dinner. An artistic collaboration is born as Debby Webster spins web and other objects into an instrument that will bring music into Manuelo's life. The rich pastel illustrations present the world of the resolute Manuelo as the "playing mantis" introduces various instruments to readers. With his stick-thin limbs, the insect makes a graceful figure as he plays his homemade cello. The tiny white spider perfectly reflects the delicate nature of the web she spins. With characters that are empathetic and intrepid, this story makes a good model for encouraging youngsters to persevere when they encounter difficulties. A fine choice for all libraries, this book will be of special interest to young musicians.-Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This musically themed offering is from the estate of the late Freeman, with a few watercolor illustrations completed by another artist using Freeman's sketches. Manuelo is an insect on a mission: he loves outdoor orchestra concerts and longs to make music of his own like the crickets and grasshoppers. He attempts to create various instruments out of materials at hand, including a flute, a trumpet, and a harp. Manuelo sticks with his quest, and finally, with a spider's assistance in creating the strings, he successfully builds a cello from a walnut shell and a twig, with a bow made from a bluebird's feather. His story is lyrically told in the fluid, practiced prose of a professional storyteller, and if Manuelo is not quite as appealing a character as Corduroy, he nonetheless has quite a bit of personality for an insect, revealed in both text and illustrations. Stories about string instruments are hard to find (just like the praying mantis)-and Manuelo deserves a chance to be heard. (Picture book. 3-8)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670036844
Publisher:
Viking Juvenile
Publication date:
03/08/2004
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
9.14(w) x 9.34(h) x 0.24(d)
Age Range:
3 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California, in 1908. At an early age, he received a trumpet as a gift from his father. He practiced obsessively and eventually joined a California dance band. After graduating from high school, he ventured to New York City to study art under the tutelage of Joan Sloan and Harry Wickey at the Art Students' League. He managed to support himself throughout his schooling by playing his trumpet evenings, in nightclubs and at weddings.

Gradually, he eased into making a living sketching impressions of Broadway shows for The New York Times and The Herald Tribune. This shift was helped along, in no small part, by a rather heartbreaking incident: he lost his trumpet. One evening, he was so engrossed in sketching people on the subway, he simply forgot it was sitting on the seat beside him. This new career turned out to be a near-perfect fit for Don, though, as he had always loved the theater.

He was introduced to the world of children's literature when William Saroyan asked him to illustrate several books. Soon after, he began to write and illustrate his own books, a career he settled into comfortably and happily. Through his writing, he was able to create his own theater: "I love the flow of turning the pages, the suspense of what's next. Ideas just come at me and after me. It's all so natural. I work all the time, long into the night, and it's such a pleasure. I don't know when the time ends. I've never been happier in my life!"

Don died in 1978, after a long and successful career. He created many beloved characters in his lifetime, perhaps the most beloved among them a stuffed, overall-wearing bear named Corduroy.

Don Freeman was the author and illustrator of many popular books for children, including Corduroy, A Pocket for Corduroy, and the Caldecott Honor Book Fly High, Fly Low.

In the past 30 years, Lisa McCue has illustrated more than 175 books for children. Lisa's artwork also appears on fabrics, greeting cards, gift tins, wrapping papers, home décor and clothing. She was born in Brooklyn and now lives in Annapolis, Maryland. When she isn't drawing, she can be found on the water racing her sailboat or in the mountains skiing. She loves to read, sew, and bead and is involved in fundraising for ALS.

Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California, in 1908. At an early age, he received a trumpet as a gift from his father. He practiced obsessively and eventually joined a California dance band. After graduating from high school, he ventured to New York City to study art under the tutelage of Joan Sloan and Harry Wickey at the Art Students' League. He managed to support himself throughout his schooling by playing his trumpet evenings, in nightclubs and at weddings.

Gradually, he eased into making a living sketching impressions of Broadway shows for The New York Times and The Herald Tribune. This shift was helped along, in no small part, by a rather heartbreaking incident: he lost his trumpet. One evening, he was so engrossed in sketching people on the subway, he simply forgot it was sitting on the seat beside him. This new career turned out to be a near-perfect fit for Don, though, as he had always loved the theater.

He was introduced to the world of children’s literature when William Saroyan asked him to illustrate several books. Soon after, he began to write and illustrate his own books, a career he settled into comfortably and happily. Through his writing, he was able to create his own theater: "I love the flow of turning the pages, the suspense of what's next. Ideas just come at me and after me. It's all so natural. I work all the time, long into the night, and it's such a pleasure. I don't know when the time ends. I've never been happier in my life!"

Don died in 1978, after a long and successful career. He created many beloved characters in his lifetime, perhaps the most beloved among them a stuffed, overall-wearing bear named Corduroy.

Don Freeman was the author and illustrator of many popular books for children, including Corduroy, A Pocket for Corduroy, and the Caldecott Honor Book Fly High, Fly Low.

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