That Mountain Music: Passing the Music Down by Sarah Sullivan
"Will you teach me all your tunes?.....I want to play like you."
It could be any time and any place. A child with his instrument and a passion for music stands before a master player and asks to be taught what he knows. Passing the Music Down (Candlewick Press, 2011) by Sarah Sullivan begins in a particularly American time and place.
They travel over twisty mountain roads to where banjo pickers make music under the stars... to the old, old mountains...slumbering east of Tennessee.
Come to hear a man lift his body and set their spirits free.
Sullivan's lyric free verse tells the true story of young Jake Krack, whose family drives him from his home in Indiana to meet Melvin Wine, the mountain fiddle player from whom he will learn everything the old man knows. Jake is taken in as a student and as an apprentice sits at the feet of the master until his skills mature and Melvin has passed all his music down, down for one more generation which will keep it alive and take it forward into the future.
Sullivan includes historical and biographical notes, a bibliography and discography, as well as a list of videos and web sites which provide the young student of American folk music sources for further study. But the real appeal of Passing the Music Down is the story of the long, long stream which is American music represented by, but not limited to, the real people she portrays. Veteran illustrator Barry Root's soft, stylized watercolor illustrations add to the gentle mountain mood of this book. Pair this one with Gary Golio's recent When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan (Little, Brown, 2011), (see my review here) for another accessible look into recent musical history for young readers.