Illustrations by R. Gregory Christie
Imagine having a love and passion for music. You are in a band and entertain people often. Then all of a sudden you can’t hear the notes anymore. What would you do with yourself after the band leader asked you to leave the band? Give up! Right? Or not? Who will listen to a deaf musician?
The Deaf Musicians written by Pete Seeger and Paul Dubois Jacobs, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie is the winner of the Schneider Award. Lee, a piano player, loses his hearing and is asked to leave his band. As Lee travels home on the subway he notices an advertisement for a school for the deaf. Lee decides to attend the school. Of course he meets a friend by the name of Max who also plays the Sax. Together they begin to rap about their favorite jazz tunes using sign language. Eventually, the two form a quartet and they perform on the subway. They begin to attract the attention of many. “Lee, who once thought his jazz life was over, found himself playing for audiences larger than ever before.”
Christie’s illustrations sing along with the words on the pages. There are bright, vivid colors and expressions on the characters faces that reflect the love of music. The mood changes as Lee is coping with the fact that he cannot hear. After Lee attends the school for the deaf, makes friends, and learns how to overcome his challenge. He is able to play music once again. This is an uplifting story about overcoming challenges.
The words on the page are rhythmic and this book lends itself well to be interactive with children. There are phonemic gems such as “doodle-bop-bop,” “boo-bang-bing,” or “shish-shish- shoogle.”
The arrangement of framed illustrations to the arrangement of the text on the page shows the passing of time to the rhythm of the music. There are bold lines throughout the book that are used to focus our attention on the band and their music as they play in the subway. Christie uses her own unique style to reflect the content and mood of this story.
Pete Seeger includes an afterword in the book. He is thanking interpreters who have joined him as he has played music at festivals. Seeger states, “It is a reminder of the power of music even when it can’t be heard.” “The real music is in people joining together.”