Inspiring Young Readers
The MOOsic Makers by Heather Pindar, illustrated by Barbara Bakos
Farmer Joni lives what looks like a pretty idyllic life sitting on her rocking chair with her cat, book and guitar ‘out on the wild, winsome hills’. The musical notes drawn coming from the nearby barn focus us on what she is listening to as she rocks. On the next page we see that her farm is alive with music made by a happy looking cow named Nutmeg playing a mandolin, accompanied by another cow named Celery whose voice is ‘round and mellow like an old apple barrel’. Although Joni and the cows are clearly enjoying the music – some of the other animals are fed up with the noise and rather jealous that they can’t learn to sing and play instruments too.
The calm scene changes dramatically when a fierce storm arrives and the barn roof is carried away by the wind! What on earth can they all do to raise money for a new roof? The answer is obvious to Nutmeg and Celery as they grab their checked shirts and straw hats so that they can go busking. Billy the sheep and Esme the donkey look distinctly unhappy with the less glamorous role of collecting the cash, but the buskers soon attract the attention of a flashily dressed blond haired man who introduces himself as Georgie Smarm. He promises to make them rich and famous, but only if they would shift from playing MOO–grass to DisCOW music (plenty of clever little word tricks to keep the adults smiling). The two cows agree go with him on an international tour but Mr Smarm is very slow to pay them despite their evident success. After twenty seven shows, they decide to MOOtiny and get MOOving back to the farm where they can play the music in the way that they prefer.
They are of course warmly welcomed back by their friends, but the problem of the missing roof has not gone away. In what might be an homage to the early modest days of the Glastonbury Festival, Joni proposes that they host a MOOsic Festival, but one that includes talents from all the animals. The double page spread that follows shows animals and people enjoying themselves playing and listening to music and dancing in the green meadow is probably my favourite illustration. I like the many details including a cat and a duck sitting together on a picnic blanket enjoying glasses of wine – such harmony. I can almost hear the pleasant jangly music and smell the haystacks in the summer sunshine. The day is a huge success and they raise plenty of money to rebuild the roof, with even enough left over for mandolin and singing lessons for everyone.
This is another triumph for Maverick Books, a publisher who pride themselves on producing well-paced picture books with an emphasis on memorable text and plentiful vibrant illustrations. I really enjoyed this unusual ‘can do’ story with its underlying messages of optimism, creativity and working together. The way in which making music is used as a solution to a difficult problem is also something that would start some interesting discussions with children, as well as giving food for thought to adults who may not see it as a priority. It might even lead to a reason to listen to lots of different Blue Grass and Disco music which surely can’t be bad.
I recommend that you read it for yourselves to see if it gets your foot tapping.