The Remarkable Farkle Mcbride: 52 Unexpected Ways to Make a Birthday, Holiday, or Any Day a Celebration


Vroom-pety BANG!

Young Farkle McBride is a musical genius: He plays the violin, the flute, the trombone, and the drums with incredible skill. But he's never satisfied: Something is missing.
In his first book, actor and musician John Lithgow introduces a...

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Vroom-pety BANG!

Young Farkle McBride is a musical genius: He plays the violin, the flute, the trombone, and the drums with incredible skill. But he's never satisfied: Something is missing.
In his first book, actor and musician John Lithgow introduces a memorable character, a fickle yet lovable child prodigy who brings the sounds and rhythms of an orchestra to sprawling visual life. With a double gatefold showing the entire orchestra, this is the ultimate book for the music lover in all of us.
Doom-pety CLANG!

The musical prodigy Farkle McBride tries a number of instruments before discovering that conducting the orchestra makes him happy.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Beloved actor and musician John Lithgow delivers his first book for children -- a stunning, sensational picture book that sings! The young hero, freckle-faced Farkle McBride, is a musical genius: He plays the violin, the flute, the trombone, and the drums with incredible skill. But he's never satisfied: Something is missing. Then one day he comes to the aid of the orchestra's conductor and discovers the beauty of collaboration -- and his true calling. A bright, lively book that brings the sounds and rhythms of an orchestra to sprawling visual life, The Remarkable Farkle McBride features a double gatefold showing the entire orchestra, making it the ultimate book for the music lover in all of us.
Publishers Weekly
In what PW called "a romp of a tale," a prodigy's quest for the perfect instrument leads him through virtually every section of the orchestra until he steps in for an ill conductor. "The nimble verse with a limerick's beat sparkles." Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
No stranger to music (he released a CD for children titled "Singin' in the Bathtub"), actor Lithgow pens a romp of a tale about a prodigy whose quest for the perfect instrument leads him through virtually every section of the orchestra. "When Farkle McBride was a three-year-old tyke,/ All freckle-y, bony, and thin,/ He astonished his friends and his family alike/ By playing superb violin." After his debut, the easily dissatisfied diminutive genius trades in his fiddle for a flute ("He went Rootle-ee/ Tootle-ee/ Tootle-ee Too/ With all of the winds at his side"), then a trombone and subsequently percussion, all to no avail. Not until he steps in for an ill conductor does he finds his niche; a gatefold spread shows him ("satisfied!") in front of "all the instruments he ever tried." Lithgow's nimble verse with a limerick's beat sparkles as he introduces readers to the various instruments and their sounds. Payne's outrageously droll mixed media illustrations, with their blend of caricature and realism, recall Kathryn Hewitt's work in Lives of the Musicians. Although Farkle is remarkably difficult to please, his tale may well strike a chord with anyone who's ever made overtures at musicianship. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Child prodigy Farkle McBride plays superb violin at three, the flute at five, trombone at seven, and percussion at nine, but no instrument satisfies him for long. At four he smashes his violin, at six he tosses his flute into a pond, and at eight he upends his trombone into a trashcan. In rollicking tongue-tickling rhyme, actor John Lithgow tells the story of "The Remarkable Farkle McBride," who eventually finds satisfaction as a conductor. Payne's exuberant illustrations almost burst from the pages, and his exaggerated facial expressions and perspectives match the tall tale qualities of the story. The musical instruments are lovingly and accurately drawn, and the background for the text is covered with musical symbols, which should please young musicians and their teachers. Musical also in it use of language, this is a story that begs to be read aloud, and is sure to be a hit at story times. 2000, Simon & Schuster, $17.00. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Linnea Hendrickson
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-At the age of three, Farkle McBride has mastered the violin, at five the flute, two years later the trombone, and by nine the entire percussion section. Unfortunately, the musical prodigy quickly tires of each new accomplishment and grows annoyed by the sounds he produces. It is only when the conductor is too ill to lead the orchestra and the child is asked to substitute that he realizes his true calling. "Poor Farkle at ten, howsoever renowned,/Reached the end of his/musical tether./But then he discovered his/favorite sound:/Musicians all playing together." The boy takes his final bow on an impressive double-gatefold spread with the orchestra behind him and his audience obviously well pleased. From the musical mobile dangling above his bassinet on the opening pages to the congratulatory bouquet at the end, it is clear that Farkle is a born musician; however, it is his sheer capriciousness that provides this contemporary tall tale with its zany humor. Payne's realistic mixed-media illustrations contain whimsical details and lots of musical innuendoes; the text appears on pages lightly imprinted with musical notation. The grotesquely enlarged heads of many characters and the dire fates suffered by several instruments are disconcerting at first but deliver a visual punch. The jaunty rhyme scheme with lots of onomatopoeia will have listeners "deedle-eeing" and "tootle-ee tooing" right along. Pair this wry and witty read-aloud with Lloyd Moss's Zin! Zin! Zin!: A Violin (S & S, 1995).-Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Clarissa Cruz
Filled with rhythmic onomatopoeic phrases, Farkle is best read aloud, But the tale of a young musical prodigy who systematically masters, then destroys every instrument bears a handy lesson as well: Farkle discovers that music sounds most beautiful when different instruments work together...check out the expressive, lifelike depictions of Farkle, who was modeled after illustrator C.F. Paynes's son, Evan.
Entertainment Weekly
Kirkus Reviews
A welcome debut from an accomplished actor, the remarkable Lithgow. Limericklike rhyming text recounts the tale of a musical prodigy, Farkle McBride, who from age three, masters, then discards, instrument after instrument in the quest to satisfy his musical passions. Beginning with the violin Lithgow provides unique onomatopoeic tones for the instruments: "He went Reedleee, Deedleee, Deedleee Dee with all the strings at his side." The trombone: " He went Vroompety, Doompety, Doompety Doom . . ." and percussion: " He went Boom, Bash, Clangama Clash! All the clamor that he could provide." Yet the older McBride grows, the more dissatisfied he becomes with his accomplishments until finally given the opportunity to conduct, "his happy heart sings, / To brass, drums, winds, and strings, / And remarkable Farkle's at last SATISFIED." The story ends with a sweeping, dramatic, fourpage panoramic gatefold featuring the proud tenyearold standing on a symphony hall stage in front of an entire orchestra. Payne's (True Heart, 1999) humorous mixedmedia illustrations feature characters with oversized heads and exaggerated features, changing pointsofview, and a variety of textures. Often the text is set on a background of giant notes and the format itself is as outsized as Farkle's personality. Encore! (Picture book. 48)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689833403
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 276,161
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 0.40 (h) x 11.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Lithgow

John Lithgow is the New York Times bestselling author of I Got Two Dogs; Mahalia Mouse Goes to College; Marsupial Sue Presents: The Runaway Pancake; I’m A Manatee; Micawber; Marsupial Sue; The Remarkable Farkle McBride; and Carnival of the Animals. An award-winning actor, he has starred on stage, film, and television. He performs concerts across the country and has recorded the CDs Farkle and Friends, Singin’ in the Bathtub, and The Sunny Side of the Street. Visit John at

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October 2000

"Oh, pity the prodigy, Farkle McBride!" Poor Farkle McBride, musical wunderkind. Even though he's mastered almost every instrument under the sun -- from violin to flute to trombone to drums -- he's just never satisfied! Could his true calling be in front of the orchestra? From the collaboration of award-winning actor John Lithgow and acclaimed illustrator C. F. Payne comes The Remarkable Farkle McBride, a beautiful picture book that's sure to strike a chord with the music lover in all of us.
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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with John Lithgow, Author of The Remarkable Farkle McBride

Q: You've worked in many different art forms (theater, television, etc.). Have you always had writing aspirations? Why a children's book?

A: I've never really had the urge to write, at least not the kind of urge that made me an actor. I love reading, of course, and I guess I've always felt it best to leave writing to great writers. Farkle McBride, in fact, was not originally conceived as a book at all but as a performance piece for me and an orchestra. So I guess I've sort of stumbled into the role of a children's book author.

Q: How are acting and writing creatively similar/different for you?

A: In my case, writing is a means to an end. I wrote the words to be spoken out loud, as the best children's books should be. And I suppose I always intended to be the primary reader. So in a sense, I write to act. Definitely not vice versa.

Q: What authors do you remember from your childhood? Did any of them influence or inspire your writing?

A: My favorite books for children were a set of bright orange volumes called Childcraft. They were full of wonderful doggerel poems, many of which I can still recite by heart. And they definitely influenced me in cooking up Farkle. More recently, the books I've read to my own kids made their marks. I love the way A. A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, and William Steig use an exotic vocabulary to get kids excited about words.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is probably my favorite. That, or her Runaway Bunny. Of the thousands of authors for kids, she remains the one who seems to know the heart and mind of a child best of all.

Q: The Remarkable Farkle McBride is about symphonic music. Did you play an instrument as a child? Do you play any now?

A: At age 27 I finally challenged myself to learn the guitar, which now, 28 years later, I still play, but pretty badly. But I always loved music as a kid, of all kinds, and I grew up kicking myself for never truly mastering any instrument.

Q: Do you have a favorite instrument or type of music to hear played?

A: I don't think there is any music purer than Bach's Suites for Solo Cello. But then I like bluegrass banjo, Coltrane on tenor sax, Ravi Shankar on sitar, etc.

Q: Which instrument would you choose to reflect your personality?

A: My personality? The kazoo. Requires enthusiasm but no skill whatsoever.

Q: Do you plan to follow up this first book with others?

A: Yes, indeed. I've already cooked up books about a squirrel who loves art, one about two dogs, and one about a frustrated kangaroo. I seem to have gone all zoological all of a sudden.

Q: Is the character of Farkle based on a real person?

A: I didn't base Farkle on anyone in particular, but C. F. Payne certainly did. The model for his version of Farkle is his own son, Evan.

Q: How was C. F. Payne selected to illustrate Farkle?

A: C. F. Payne had illustrated the album cover of my first CD, Singin' in the Bathtub, so we already had a collaborative friendship. I'd picked him for the album from his great portraits on the covers of Time and The New York Times Book Review. I've been a big fan of Norman Rockwell's since I was a kid myself, and to me, Payne is his successor, the best American illustrator working today. I sent him The Remarkable Farkle McBride even before I sought out a publisher, so I've always considered him the cocreator of the book.

Q: How did your experiences as a father affect your writing a book for children?

A: I doubt if I ever would have written for children, or entertained them for that matter, if I hadn't had my own. My children have taught me what kids like to hear. They've also given me a sense of when I'm talking down to them and when I'm talking on their level. The authors of bad children's books never got that straight.

Q&A courtesy of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2002

    For my children and myself!

    I have a son who is not a very die-hard reader. This book has brought him out of that and has really gotten him to enjoy the art of a story again. As a parent, I never tire of reading it aloud. Not to mention the wonderful illustrations. We love all of John Lithgow's books, and wait for each new one with much anticipation.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2000

    Great Rhyming Story

    A very funny introduction to the orchestra. Lithgow writes in silly rhyme an almost farcical story about this child prodigy. It's entertaining in a big and colorful way.

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