Author: Denise Gillard
Illustrator: Stephen Taylor
Publisher: Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi, 2001, 2011
Genre: Picture book, fiction
Audience Age: 4 to 8 years
Themes/topics: Music, flutes, intergenerational interaction, grandfather/granddaughter relationship, nature, traditional crafts
Opening Sentences: Early morning. Shhh! No one is up but Grampa and me. I sneak down the stairs. Creak, creak, creak. “Come on, girl. Put on your boots.” “Where are we going, Gramps?” “Going to make a flute,” he says.
Synopsis: The unnamed main character knows what a flute looks like, she’s seen one at a concert. She’s even tried one. How can Grampa make one? Even though she thinks it’s impossible, she would love to make music like the music she’s heard in the sky on a clear summer day. Together she and Grampa go out walking to find just the right branch that he can make into a flute.
The story is simple, the stakes aren’t high, but the result is satisfyingly “right.” Through the sample spreads available on the publisher’s website, you can see how the illustrations add life and emotion to the simple text. The relationship between grandfather and granddaughter is heart-warming and real. Although not explicitly stated in the story, the book is set in a rural Nova Scotian African-Canadian community.
Activities/Resources: The most obvious activity to accompany this book is to make a flute. Although making one from a wooden branch is likely beyond the skill level of most of us, there are instructions available online, and there are websites that highlight this traditional musical form, such as The Sound of Trees.
During the month of February, as we commemorate Black History Month, (and all through the year, of course) this book can also be used as a springboard to learn more of the history of people of African descent in Canada. Learn Quebec has activities and lesson plans available on their website as does Black History Canada.
Availability: Readily available in paperback.
Every Friday, bloggers join together to share picture book reviews and resources, thanks to author Susanna Leonard Hill’s brainchild, “Perfect Picture Book Fridays.” Susanna then adds the books (and links to the reviews) to a comprehensive listing by subject on her blog. Find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”