Monday, November 11, 2013

PSY, Gangnam Style, and the Power of Music

How am I going to tie this in with this blog about books?  Keep reading to find out!
Mom wants me to write about "The Barely Controlled Chaos That Is Our Life", or "Why Are the Pets and Children Making Such a Mess?"  I told her, "No!, this is my blog about BOOKS!"  Although it sounded like, "woof, woof, woof!!"

So I am going to ignore her and tell you about some books that I love, ones that show how music can change your life.  I know, because in my previous life down in Georgia I only got to listen to Country and Western, which made my skin itch.  Then on the van up to Maine they played only what I think they call "pop music", which I did not like as much as I like what they call "popcorn'.  Now I get to listen to all sorts of music on those magic discs!  Some make my Dad do what Mom calls "interpretive dance", some make my Mom practically jump up and down!  Some are just so beautiful that I can feel my heart beat faster. 

Mole Music is a book that gives you something new each time you look at it.  David McPhail uses watercolors and ink for his pictures, and they go deeper than his words, which are few and perfectly chosen.  This seems like a simple book at first, but then you realize that it is so powerful.  It is like the layers of a Dingo Stick, that you chew and savor, forgetting that you are really controlling the tartar on your teeth.  Mole Music has layers, too, the underground where Mole lives, and the above ground where the World is unfolding, unseen by Mole.  The instrument of change is the violin, which Mole orders through the mail and then learns to play.  Boy, does that take a long time!  He is so determined, and while he is learning a whole oak tree grows! Also, he changes the world, but the beauty of the book is that he doesn't know it - all he knows is the internal power of music and the joy that doing something you love brings to your own world, no matter how small.
Link to book in SAILS Network
                                                            Link to book in Amazon

Speaking of which, my world is pretty small.  A comfy couch, cats to annoy, squirrels to chase, a little neighborhood.  Those are good things, but I know from my book reading that the world is an amazing and huge place!  Also, the little one has forced me to watch something called YouTube.  Her favorite is some guy named PSY who does a silly dance.  I wouldn't think much of this, but if you were to mention him or do the dance or sing part of the song every child under 11 would join in or get excited.  That is the power of music, no matter how silly it seems to me, it can touch people from all different parts of the world, and that can connect them across cultures and borders.  I suppose YouTube is good for that, but I still prefer books.
This is not in English!  Oops, my paw hit the wrong button.  Luckily music is the universal language.

The Cello of Mr. O, by Jane Cutler, is another powerful picture book.  It takes place during a war.  A girl tells the story of her neighborhood where the people are struggling to get by.  They are surrounded by ugliness, burned and bombed buildings, no dogs to admire...  A grumpy man lives upstairs in the girl's apartment building, he does not like it when the children make noise.  He does not greet the other people with words or tail-sniffing when they are in line waiting for supplies.  The girl and her friends do not like him.  But Mr. O has a cello, and one day Mr. O creates beauty in the midst of all the ugliness.  The sound of the music and the courage of Mr. O bring hope where there has been none.  Then his cello is destroyed!  I will not tell you about the last few pages, but they are gorgeous and amazing and catch your heart.

I am going to just mention two books for older readers that are funny and make you feel good, just like my fuzzy ears and soft fur.  Too bad you can't feel them through the computer!

Notes From An Accidental Band Geek, by Erin Dionne, tells the story of Elyse who wants to be an orchestra superstar like her dad and grandad.  Somehow she ends up in the school marching band, complete with an ugly polyester band uniform.  She can't seem to get anything right!  But music transforms, no matter what form it takes.

That is true also in A Crooked Kind of Perfect, by Linda Urban.  Zoe wants a baby grand piano so much, but what her family can afford is an old wheezy organ. She has to learn how to play it from a lesson book called "The Hits of the Seventies".  This book can make you laugh out loud.  It is very inspiring, too, just like all the others I've written about.

When you read any of these books you want to get up on all four feet and sniff out an instrument, or touch your nose to the play button on the CD player and listen to some music that travels through you and comes out your fur tips.  And maybe you also want to spread that joy to your neighbor, next door or down the street or in the next town or across the ocean!  Even if that neighbor is a cat.

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