Written by T.C. Bartlett, Illustrated by Monique Felix
Harcourt Brace and Company, 1997
“Now, don’t dillydally in the woods, young man, or you’ll be late for your tuba lesson!”
The plot in a nutshell: A boy meets several animals on his way to his tuba lesson
This book’s first line (quoted above) and another line of dialogue on the last page are the only words to be found in its pages. The simple story is told through its artwork. It begins with a boy leaving his house, bound for his tuba lesson, walking on a path that is clearly a musical staff. As he walks, the lines shape themselves into a tree and he climbs into it to play and then rests underneath it. Animals emerge from between the lines and he plays his tuba, much to their enjoyment.
A bear claws its way out of the staff and makes a terrible sound, but the boy’s tuba music calms him down and even encourages him to sing along. The boy embraces the bear’s song, which threatens to carry him out of the musical staff altogether, but the bear saves him as he’s about to fall. The boy and bear hug, and the animals all sing and play together, as they carry the boy to his tuba lesson. This is my interpretation of the story, anyway. With no words, every reader gets to take his or her own version.
As a firm believer in music education and having recently taken up playing an instrument again myself, after a prolonged absence from it, I enjoyed author T.C. Bartlett’s message about the power of music. The artwork, by Monique Felix, is appealing and very clever. Using a staff and musical notes as integral components of a story could be challenging, but she makes it work beautifully. Definitely recommended for budding musicians.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that music is transformative and learning to create it can be a wonderful protection against whatever the world wants to throw at you.