Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fiction Wednesday - A review of Little Rat Makes Music


My daughter came into this world with a natural affinity for music. Learning how to play the piano when she was five was easy for her, but practicing was something she avoided as much as possible. I cannot tell you how many times we had the "you need to practice or you will never move forward" conversation. 

Today's book will resonate with every young artist, musician, and athlete who hates to practice, and with every adult who has tried to find ways to encourage their child to practice regularly.  

Monika Bang-Campbell
Illustrated by Molly Bang
Fiction
For ages 6 to 9
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007, 978-0-15-205305-5

Little Rat comes from a music-loving family. Her father is a gifted musician who can play four instruments, and her mother loves to sing. Her mother takes Little Rat to folk-music concerts, and her father takes her to listen to orchestral performances. Little Rat particularly enjoys watching the violinists, who “played all sorts of notes” and thus create a variety of musical moods.
   One day Little Rat and her mama are walking past the Community Hall when they heard the sound of music. When they go inside, they see a group of young animals playing violins. Little Rat is charmed by the sounds she hears, and so her mother arranges for her to have violin lessons.
   At her first lesson, Little Rat and the other beginner students learn how to hold their bows and violins. They don’t learn how to play a single note, let alone a little tune. How boring it all is. At the next lesson, Little Rat is finally asked to play a note, and what a note it is too. Little Rat’s note sounds like “an angry seagull.”
   Over time, Little Rat’s playing gets better, but one thing Little Rat hates to do is to practice. It is boring and frustrating. Why does learning how to play the violin have to be so hard?
   Acquiring a new skill is rarely easy, and often the early learning phases are very hard to deal with. The only way to get better is to practice, but practicing is dull because you do the same thing over and over again, and what you produce is often not that good. In this wonderful chapter book, we see how a young rat comes to accept that practicing is necessary, and that it takes work to become good at doing something. With touches of humor and great sensitivity, Monika Bang tells a story that will resonate with young people who are experiencing their own practicing issues. Artists, musicians, and athletes all have to make the same journey that Little Rat makes.

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