Imani’s Music – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Imani’s Music

Author: Sheron Williams

Illustrator: Jude Daly

Publisher: New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Division, 2002

Genre: Picture book, fiction told as a folk tale

Audience Age: 5-9

Theme: Music, African-American history, slavery, storytelling, storytelling through song

Opening Sentences: “Born during the planting season of eighteen nine and aught, my grandfather W.D. was a man of the ‘Used-to-Be’ who resided in the ‘Here-and-Now’ ‘cause time and living life had dragged him there. He was hailed in five counties as a storyteller that could wrestle a tale to the ground. He danced on the path ‘tween the ‘Used-to-Be,’ the ‘Here-and-Now,’ and the ‘What’s-Gon’-Come.’”

Synopsis: W.D. weaves a magical story of how music came to the people in Africa. At first The Ancestors kept music to themselves, but one grasshopper, Amani, discovered the beautiful sounds he could make and The Ancestors favored him with the gift of music. Gradually music spread throughout the land. Amani became friends with a man who was captured and put on a slave ship, and it happened that Amani was with him. Amani despaired at first, but his friend encouraged him to share his music. His music brought hope to those people who had been wrenched from their homes. As they rebuilt their lives, as slaves, on the North American continent, Amani continued to spread hope through his music.

Activities/Resources: Although I couldn’t find activities specifically connected to this book, there is a wealth of activities related to Black History Month, to slave music, and to African-American history and storytelling. Here are a few links: from African Heritage, a wonderfully extensive list of links to free activities on an array of subjects  ; from Teaching Today, lesson plans on Movement and Music: an Introduction to Slavery  ; and from Lesson Planet, lesson plans on music and narrative in African-American history. Children could also be encouraged to make up their own folk tales, to act out the story of Imani and his music, and to learn to sing some of the shouts, songs and spirituals that are a part of this period in African-American history.

Availability: Unfortunately, this book is out of print. It is available in libraries, or in the used-book market from sites such as

# 12 in Perfect Picture Book Fridays. See all this week’s Perfect Picture Books at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, or find the entire listing at her “Perfect Picture Books.”


40 thoughts on “Imani’s Music – Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. What a shame it is out of print as that opening is so powerful and the whole magical birth and spreading of music is such a wonderful story to tell. I love the sound of this one, Beth. I can’t quite make out what the hands are holding on the front cover?

    1. The hands are The Ancestors’ hands, and they’re holding the bowls in which they stored the music — they’re pouring it out on the world.

      It is indeed a wonderful story, and I so wish it was still in print.

    1. Thank you, Renee — lots more cool books planned for coming weeks (although next week’s book is very different to my usual arts-related fare).

  2. I plan on going to the library for some things today. I’ll have to add this to my list of books to look for. Sounds rhythmic, beautiful and intriguing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. This sounds like a book I would love. I took an Anthropology class last year on the “Peoples of Africa” and I loved it. Since then, I have gravitated to books and articles about it. I love the opening for this book. The wording is really great. I will keep a look out it. Maybe they will reprint it soon. Good idea checking libraries.

  4. I’m sorry to hear it’s out of print but I will try and find it anyway. Our library may still carry it as they don’t throw things out if people still take it out. Our library has a huge budget though and may not carry it but I will check. the lines are so lyrical and musical it is sure to please on many fronts. And the hook of music is sure to turn the pages. 🙂

  5. This book intrigues me so. How terribly say that it is out of print. I hope to find it to buy someday, but for now will see if my library has it. Thank you for the wonderful review.

  6. Sometimes I’m surprised what I can find in the library’s catalog. It’s worth a try. The library had some of its purged books at a sale last week. I found one that Enzo had checked out and enjoyed. I grabbed it.

    1. Good luck! I found this one at the library (although I had to request it — it amazes me how many wonderful books our city library doesn’t have, but small town libraries in the province DO have.)

  7. Beth, there were similarities in our selections today. I love the book you selected an hope it is in our library. Your opening was wonderful and the book sounds so lyrical. Music was so much a part of the was slaves passed down their stories as they sang about life. I think this will be a recurrent theme in other books. Very lovely review!

    1. Yes, I noticed the similarities between our choices as well. I can’t say that I’m surprised that we would think along the same wavelengths! Thanks, Pat.

  8. Oh it’s too bad it’s out of print. It sounds GREAT! I’ll look for it in my library. I loved the opening to the story.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog (yeah, too bad I can’t snag all your toilet rolls ~ ha ha).

    Grade ONEderful

  9. Like the others have said, that is one powerful opening and I like how the voice/language is so true, you can hear it. I already spent a great deal of today at the library reading and doing some writing looking up publishers etc, hopefully I can locate it here, as I would love to read through the whole book. Thanks Beth.

  10. Thanks so much, Beth, for a great choice for PPBF! Many libraries have a section of books for sale (donated and/or library discards). I often find treasures for 50 cents or less and love rescuing these beautiful books. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one. 🙂

    1. Vivian — I hope you’re successful in finding it. A couple of the libraries in my province had it available to borrow, so you might get lucky in that regard.

  11. I agree with Joanna-the opening is very powerful! As soon as I read that it was out of print I checked my online catalog to see if we own it-and we do! Tomorrow this book will be in my hands!! I will be sure share it with my students who visit the library. A great choice for African American history month. Thank you for this wonderful perfect picture book, Beth!

  12. This book sounds lovely, Beth! I love music and am so happy to have you share books about it – wonderful for the kids and for us! I also love those “where things came from” kind of tales. Thanks so much for sharing this – it will be a great addition to our list!

    1. Thanks, Susanna!

      It’s an interesting process, hunting out books that are about the arts, and still work as “perfect” picture books — many of the books I find do not. I wish that all the books I *do* find would be still in print.

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