Do you want to be in a band? Well, here's how! First, bug your two older sisters to start a band, and then beg them to join. (It helps if they already know how to sing and play guitar.) Then there are some tricky parts, like getting over STAGEFRIGHT and practicing until the tips of your fingers ache and playing gigs at not-so-big-time music clubs. At least, that's the way our little sister narrator explains it...
Do you want to be in a band? Well, here's how! First, bug your two older sisters to start a band, and then beg them to join. (It helps if they already know how to sing and play guitar.) Then there are some tricky parts, like getting over STAGEFRIGHT and practicing until the tips of your fingers ache and playing gigs at not-so-big-time music clubs. At least, that's the way our little sister narrator explains it in her "guide" on how to start a band, based on the real-life experiences of author Suzzy Roche.
With the characteristic wit known to her fans, Roche, of the folk-rock band the Roches, disguises first-person memoir as second-person advice about making music. “First you’ll need two interesting, smart older sisters who can play guitars and sing,” she begins. As gifted a writer as she is a performer, Roche employs a tone that stretches from encouraging (“If you start to feel hopeless, take a deep breath, close your eyes and say ‘I can do it’ three times”) to goofy (“If you can’t agree about which notes to sing... it will make your music sound strange, maybe like a churning garbage truck”) and honest (about not being the “Next Big Thing” anymore: “Don’t be surprised if it makes you and your sisters feel sort of crummy and sad”). At the book’s heart is a well of feeling, and Potter’s watercolor-and-ink spreads—with their self-conscious, folk-naïf figures and whimsical asides (musical notes flying from a guitar, a whale surfacing from the ocean over which the band travels on tour)—look like the Roches’ music visualized. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
Starred Review, Publishers Weekly, November 26, 2012: “At the book’s heart is a well of feeling, and Potter’s watercolor-and-ink spreads—with their self-conscious, folk-naïf figures and whimsical asides (musical notes flying from a guitar, a whale surfacing from the ocean over which the band travels on tour)—look like the Roches’ music visualized.”
- Heidi Hauser Green
Folk-indie rock musician Suzzy Roche draws on her experience in this appealing narrative. Although the title might give readers the impression that they will learn the steps for being in a band from this work, that is not the strength of this book. Rather, it functions more as a personal story than as a "how-to" guide. For example, Roche notes that to begin, the band-aspiring reader will "need two interesting, smart older sisters who can play guitars and sing" and will "teach [you] all they know." Readers without older, musically-skilled sisters are unlikely to be able to change their situation; if this is a true prerequisite for being in a band, they're sunk and should abandon the effort now. Similarly, the parents' reaction to the girl-band's performance and their experience catching the attention of a music industry fellow—although interesting—are too specific to be helpful to a reader who truly wants advice about starting a band. This book will attract those who are familiar with any of the Roches' twelve albums and feel curious about the band. It may be especially useful for elementary music teachers, who could share part of the band's children's album "Will You Be My Friend?" with students before reading this book. Don't look here for clues about how to launch a band, but do enjoy it as a celebration of music, sisterhood and perseverance. (No matter what skill you're honing, Roche's repeated reminders about the importance of "practice" will surely ring true.) Reviewer: Heidi Hauser Green
School Library Journal
Gr 3–5—Appealing to the listener's inner musician, the author (youngest sister of the indie folk-rock trio, the Roches) begins with a question: "Are you one of those kids who likes to make noise?" She then prescribes a plan to form a successful band, even if "you only know how to play air guitar." Skeptics may not make it beyond their disbelief, but Roche continues with a rundown involving the pain of learning to play a stringed instrument (her choice), tips for dealing with discouragement, the necessity of practicing, and attending to reactions. Potter's signature naïve style is the perfect accompaniment to the fictionalized narrative of these women-noted for their quirky lyrics and humorous performances. The artist uses bright watercolors and bold patterns to highlight the sisters and their family; the backgrounds are more subdued, and the audiences, monochromatic. While the pajama-clad child prancing around the kitchen, banging a pot and wearing a colander on her head, suggests a younger demographic, this is not the right companion for Leslie Patricelli's Be Quiet, Mike! (Candlewick, 2011). Many years and page turns go by before a band is named, formed, discovered, recorded, and touring. Readers need patience and an interest in the process and the motivations of the aging performers. While the second-person voice is occasionally awkward as it mixes Roche's life with children's imagined experiences, it does draw readers in. Recommended for music fans in intimate, intergenerational settings.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
While many children may answer the titular question in the affirmative, it seems likely that only (some) adults will appreciate the behind-the-scenes glimpse of one group's genesis offered by quirky songstress Roche. Although she begins by suggesting that, in general, kids who like to make noise may be budding musicians, Roche's perspective quickly becomes specific. If you want to be in a band, "you'll need two interesting, smart older sisters who can play guitars and sing." She's also a wee bit behind the times: The band she suggests emulating is the Beatles (though showing the dog in a shaggy wig as Ringo is worth a giggle--at least to grownups, who'll know who he is). Roche does provide, and reiterate, some pragmatic advice: Aspiring musicians will need to practice, practice, practice. But it's buried in an arch, overlong text with minimal child appeal. Potter's distinctive watercolor-and-ink illustrations feature flat-faced characters and straightforward compositions, effectively conveying the action and creating a retro vibe. This suits Roche's somewhat nostalgic view of growing up and getting famous perfectly, but unfortunately, it does little to inject energy or interest. Fans of the Roches will appreciate in-jokes, like the mention of strawberry-apricot pie, but ultimately, this chronicle of perfecting skills and performing for ever larger audiences is too narrowly focused to provide encouragement, entertainment or inspiration. (Picture book. 6-8)
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Meet the Author
SUZZY ROCHE started performing with her two older sisters, Maggie and Terre, at a young age, and together they formed The Roches. The folk-indie rock band was active for more than 30 years, and the sisters recorded more than 11 albums together, including the children's album Will You Be My Friend, a Parents' Choice Gold Award winner.
GISELLE POTTER has illustrated numerous books for children, including Cecil the Pet Glacier by Matthea Harvey. A Parents' Choice Gold Award winner.