The Little Piano Girl
Illustrated by: Giselle Potter
Published by: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children 2010
Ages: 5 – 8 years
Theme: music, jazz, acceptance, non-fiction,
Opening Lines: The night she left Georgia, Mary couldn’t see anything but lights out the train window…but she could hear. She listened to the train and clapped out its sound on her knees. She sang the sound of its whistle. “Chug-ga, chug-ga, chug-ga…Toot! Toot!”
Synopsis: From Amazon – What if you loved music more than anything? Suppose you had just learned to play the piano. Imagine that your family has to move to a new city and you have to leave your piano behind. People don’t like you in the new city because of what you look like. How will you make yourself feel better? Mary Lou Williams, like Mozart, began playing the piano when she was four; at eight she became a professional musician. She wrote and arranged music for Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and was one of the most powerful women in jazz. This is the story of Mary Lou’s childhood in Pittsburgh, where she played the piano for anyone who would listen.
Why I like this: This is a beautiful story about the music legend Mary Lou Williams. Her love of Jazz, especially at a very young age, shifting from home to home and being accepted. I loved how the story concentrates on her childhood (as one reviewer on amazon put it… the story is upbeat and there is no unnecessary background information) showing how the piano was her life, it made her happy when she was sad. It brought people into her life, and helped her through difficult times as a child. She realized how powerful music was and enjoyed playing to anyone who would listen. A small Afterword near the back of the book gives a brief overview of Mary Lou Williams music career. Giselle’s illustrations of the doll-like figures and patterned background give a period look in deep colours. This is an excellent book for use in the classroom giving children an introduction to Jazz music and accepting others of diverse backgrounds. The authors of this book are sisters and love music.
Resources/Findings: Hear the story being read here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrEnqpZvHig
A Teachers guide in first lessons in teaching beginner piano players… http://www.alfred.com/img/pdf/Piano/8889_TchGde_PrepA.pdf
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