Reviews for Music in Derrick's Heart


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 2000
/*Starred Review*/ Ages 4^-8. Uncle Booker T. is teaching Derrick to play the harmonica , and Derrick is excited. He knows the instrument's music is magic, able to soothe Big Mama with sweet hymns, and inspire his aunt to dance with swinging jazz. But as his uncle reminds him, playing music is about more than skill: "You've got to feel it in your heart." Every day, Derrick practices--he even sleeps with the harmonica, wondering if he has the feeling yet. Then one morning, his ailing uncle misses their lesson, and Derrick discovers music played with heart can have healing powers. This charming, uplifting story celebrates a special family relationship and the many gifts of music: its rhythms in everyday life; the comfort and joy it brings to listeners and players; its power as a family heirloom. The easy-flowing, rhythmic prose beautifully echoes and conveys the messages, as expressive, richly colored oil paintings bring depth and liveliness to the story and characters. Together, text and art illustrate both the rewards of patience and practice, and the extraordinary power of music as universal language, able to express so much without words. ((Reviewed February 15, 2000)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2000 Fall
One summer, Derrick's elderly uncle gives him harmonica lessons. When ""old Arthur"" (arthritis) prevents Uncle Booker T. from giving a lesson one day, a now-accomplished Derrick soothes him with his own playing. The text occasionally verges on sentimentality, but the author also exercises restraint, as when intimating the old man's mortality. The illustrations affectionately depict summertime and community in the South. Copyright 2000 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2000 January #2
Battle-Lavert lets the harmonica strut its stuff in the seasoned hands of an uncle, in a story of a young African-American boy introduced to the mysteries of the mouth harp. Derrick's uncle, Booker T., has promised to teach him to play the harmonica. On their daily strolls around the small town, they bump into friends who ask Booker T. to play some music for them. One woman wants a hymn and Booker T. obliges, blowing ``soft and slow,'' setting her spirit on fire. Another day he is asked for some jazz and he responds with short and chirpy, colorful notes. Whatever he is playing, Booker T. reaches right down into the very soul of the instrument and plays from the heart. Derrick eats and sleeps with the harmonica close by and the lessons continue for a sultry summer until the day Booker T. doesn't come. ``Old Arthur'' arthritis has come to visit Booker T., and has stopped his hands cold. The torch is passed. There is a reason that music moves people so, and Battle-Lavert unmistakably conveys a sense of the magic of the harmonica, of ``breathing new life into the metal.'' Bootman's oil paintings give the tale a warm look, drafting figures with an easy rhythm and imbuing the pages with passion. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2000 January #4
Despite some lyrical moments, Battle-Lavert's (Off to School) attenuated tale of a boy learning to play the harmonica amounts to little more than a one-note story. It's a steamy summer ("The heat lay on Derrick's front porch like a wool coat"), but Derrick is excited when elderly Uncle Booker T. demonstrates his harmonica skills. To the mesmerized boy's delight, Booker T. "play[s] gold and silver notes. Cheek to cheek. Face to face. Their noses testing the air. Twisting and turning. Turning and twisting." The music inspires deep feelings: Big Mama cries, explaining later that Booker T.'s songs "just set my soul on fire.... I'm thinking of all our kinfolk who have gone on to glory. If Booker T. keeps on playing like that, we going to have church right here." As Derrick determinedly practices the harmonica, he repeatedly asks if he himself has "the feeling" yet and his uncle patiently replies, "Slow down. Take your time." Although there are minor diversions along the way, the story is dominated by obvious and predictable lessons. Bootman's (In My Momma's Kitchen) realistic oil paintings provide affectionate portraits of the characters but lack movement; they don't invigorate the text. Ages 4-8. (Mar.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2000 March
K-Gr 3-Uncle Booker T. has promised to teach Derrick to play the harmonica, and the boy spends the summer practicing with the dapper old man, who insists that Derrick "slow down" to let the music come from his heart. The child doesn't really understand what that means, but he listens as the accomplished musician plays hymns to soothe Big Mama, snappy jazz to get Aunt Agnes's feet a-tappin', and a sharp march to help the neighborhood boys keep the beat of their rhythm band. One day, when Uncle Booker T. can't play because of his arthritis, Derrick summons up all that he has learned and he takes the time to allow the "sweet, sweet music" to pour forth from the old harmonica. This tale of an intergenerational friendship, somewhat reminiscent of Karen Ackerman's Song and Dance Man (Knopf, 1988), is an appealinglook at the sense of community the music fosters throughout this black neighborhood. The straightforward text conveys a mood of comfortable idleness, and the characters are simple, down-to-earth people who exude a real fondness for one another. Bootman's realistic acrylic paintings give suitable suggestions of a small town with its big front porches and ordinary homes; the strength of the illustrations, however, lies in the artist's ability to show the textures of the characters' faces. A pleasant read-aloud that will radiate "sweet, sweet music" to its listeners' ears.-Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, LaSalle Academy, Providence, RI Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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