Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 12 Apr 2024

One Sweet Song by Jyoti Rajan Gopal, illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

The power of music to bring communities together and to speak to them in a common language is an extraordinary thing. It’s true in times of conflict and at times of peace – as humans we can sometimes look like a species that can’t help itself from finding things to disagree about but, in our better moments, we seem to have the need to find a way of working together to make harmony.

Jyoti Rajan’s One Sweet Song is a poetic celebration of this desire to find sweet music in the every day. A small girl is sitting in her apartment when she hears a single note of music ‘floating in the air’. Her neighbour is playing her flute and so she seizes on the chance to join in:

“She rings a chime,

soft and true.

One note trills and

now there are two.”

And these two notes float through the air and are joined by a third – a violin – and a fourth – from a drum – and so the music of the neighbourhood builds.

Soon there are others adding their own notes to the building musical score – instruments from many cultures, instruments that have been created from every day items. And soon:

“Voices join,

young and old,

blending, weaving,

ten notes tenfold.”

And as the music hits its crescendo, the various instruments begin to rest, one-by-one, until just:

“One note trills – then softly falls.

A hush, a silence, blankets all.”

Mysteriously the music has done its job of bring people together and giving them a sort of inner peace:

“One sweet song

for heart and soul.

One sweet song

to make us whole.”

The musical poetry of the text is set beautifully in the illustrations provided by the artist, Sonia Sánchez. Her colourful, painterly drawings fill the generous pages with colour and bring the small girl’s diverse neighbours to life for us.

This would be a perfect book to read aloud as the poetry helps to create the swell of the music and the illustrations are easy to share in something like a classroom setting. 

Available now from Walker Books, you will be able to get this book from your local independent bookshop – who will, of course, be happy to order it for you if they don’t have copies on the shelf.


Terry Potter

April 2024