Passing the Music Down

( 2 )

Overview

A warmhearted ode to an American musical tradition and to generational ties, told in lyrical free verse with atmospheric illustrations

A young boy travels to the hills of Appalachia to meet the old-time fiddle player whose music he has admired, and so sparks a friendship that will forge a bond between generations. The boy develops under the man’s care and instruction, just as seedlings grow with spring rain and summer sun. From playing on the front porch to performing at folk ...

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Overview

A warmhearted ode to an American musical tradition and to generational ties, told in lyrical free verse with atmospheric illustrations

A young boy travels to the hills of Appalachia to meet the old-time fiddle player whose music he has admired, and so sparks a friendship that will forge a bond between generations. The boy develops under the man’s care and instruction, just as seedlings grow with spring rain and summer sun. From playing on the front porch to performing at folk festivals, the two carry on the tradition of passing the music down. This touching, lyrical story, inspired by the lives of renowned fiddlers Melvin Wine and Jake Krack, includes an author’s note and suggested resources for learning about the musicians and the music they love.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
August is the time when folks head to the mountains of eastern Tennessee to hear the traditional music of fiddlers and banjo players. This is when older players pass the music down. A young boy sits next to an old fiddler, plays for him, and is invited to visit his farm and study. They play together through the winter and become friends. In the spring, they begin to travel from town to town, still playing together. Time passes; the boy grows up and the old man passes ninety. When he is gone, the young man fulfills his promise as he passes the music down to others. Root uses watercolor and gouache for his naturalistic scenes in vignettes and one double page to evoke and enhance the gentle quality of the historic story. He uses warm colors for a sunny glow to both interiors and landscapes. Details help personalize the characters and the sites where the music is played. "Passing the music down" is the repeated refrain. Notes detail information about the musicians who are the inspiration for the story, along a list of resources. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—In this gentle look at American folk-music traditions, children are introduced to a family who travels from Indiana to a Tennessee festival to hear an elderly fiddler play. The boy of the family is enthused by the music, and he in turn plays for the fiddler. The musician encourages the family to visit him and offers to play with the child. Root's sweet illustrations in watercolor and gouache show the man and boy in an almost grandfather-grandson setting, making pancakes, hunting ginseng, and picking beans, and at the end of their hard day's work, they make music together. Through the passing of time, readers travel with the duo from town to town as they play at different gatherings. As the boy is becoming a young man, the old fiddler is dying, and the book concludes with a poignant message that music creates a shared history in each of us that means that "there's a part of you that will always be around." Told in free verse, this picture book would be a good accompaniment to music-appreciation lessons focused on American roots music. It concludes with an extensive resources list and the story of noted fiddlers Melvin Wine and Jake Krack, who played together despite a 75-year age difference, and who inspired this book.—Alison Donnelly, Collinsville Memorial Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews

Sullivan reverently celebrates a musical apprenticeship that spans generations in this poetic narrative based on a real-life relationship and punctuated by the titular phrase. A boy with a penchant for "old timey" music travels with his violin and his parents from Indiana to West Virginia to hear and see a legendary fiddler. As the family draws closer geographically to the boy's new mentor, the narrative gently moves back and forth from their initial meeting to the boy's family "putting down roots / in the next county over." The pair shares farm chores as well as hours of musical tutelage and accompaniment. Seasons pass, then years: At the elder's deathbed, the now-teenage youth murmurs, " 'I'll do just like I promised, / I'll teach folks all your tunes. / There's a part of you that / will always be around.' /Passing the music down." Root's sun-dappled watercolor-and-gouache illustrations lovingly depict rural West Virginia's farms and fairs along with the respectful interplay between a twosome knit together by a deep-seated commitment to musical folkways. Sullivan's notes, on Melvin Wine and Jake Krack and the tunes, round out a lovely, resonant offering.(resources) (Picture book. 5-8)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763637538
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 5/10/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 480,217
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.40 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Sullivan, the author of Dear Baby: Letters from Your Big Brother, is a recipient of an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College. She lives in West Virginia, where old-time fiddlers play throughout the seasons.

Barry Root has illustrated many books, including Paul Fleischman’s The Birthday Tree and Ted Kooser’s Bag in the Wind. He lives in Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 15, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Music is an art form that traditionally is shared with the young

    Music is an art form that traditionally is shared with the young by older musicians - classroom music teachers, choir leaders, individual instrument instructors, parents, relatives, etc. Then when the child exhibits a true talent, more intense training is begun. But it is still something that is passed along. It is shared. It is taught. The fervor is shared and contagious.

    In Passing the Music Down, the author has recorded in beautifully expressive lyrical language the true story of Melvin Wine, aged Appalachian fiddler, and young Jake Krack who greatly desires to play the fiddler just like Mr. Wine. So Jake's parents take the boy to hear the fiddler and to play for the aged fiddler. Then the fiddler invites the boy to come visit and learn from him.

    They visit and finally they move nearby. The boy spends much time around the fiddler's homeplace helping with daily chores and then they relax in the evening on the porch and play their fiddles.

    This beautifully illustrated book takes you to the hills of West Virginia shrouded in mist resplendent in beauty. You see the age and gentleness of the old fiddler and the hope and desire of the young boy. You see the comfort of a warm fire and the joy of the moment. 

    Their lives are stitched together
    in a quilt of old-time tunes.
    Passing the music down.

    This is a lovely book that should be in the collection of every elementary school and public library.

    DISCLOSURE: A complimentary copy of the book was provided by Candlewick for the purpose of this review. Opinions expressed are solely my own. No compensation was received for this review. 

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  • Posted October 11, 2011

    Excellent Book!

    This is a great book with perfect depiction of Appalachia. Loved it! The true story is great and the illustrator's art perfectly matches the story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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