Monday, December 3, 2012

Drummer Boy by Loren Long

 Drummer Boy by Loren Long

Rating: 5 stars

Some families choose grocery stores for the quality of their produce.  Others choose one for low prices.  Our family?  I like grocery stores that have a nice selection of books.  Last night the trio and I found ourselves at Wegmans (which I actually like for all three reasons); in between the produce and dairy departments we had a pit-stop at the book shop. Lorelei and Ben were sprawled out way too comfortably on the floor reading Curious George books, and I found Drummer Boy, which I thought was just the song with illustrations by one of my favorite illustrators, Loren Long.  I put it in my cart without reading it.

In case you didn't know, Loren Long is the illustrate President Obama chose to illustrate his book, Of Thee I Sing.  When the President wants you, you know you're good.  But he was fantastic before (and after) that--his grand illustrations are sweeping beauties that pull you in completely.  Read all of my review of his books by clicking here.  Plus he has a weimaraner, like us.  (His is probably more well-behaved...maybe he wants two more...hmmm...)

When I got home, after the groceries were put away and the kids were asleep, I read it.  This book might be my favorite Christmas book of all time.

A boy receives a mystery gift on his doorstep some weeks before Christmas: a drummer boy.  "Just what I wanted," he says, and the drummer boy's heart feels warm.  After some days of drumming for the boy, the tail of the boy's dog sweeps the drummer boy into the trash, and he gets taken away into the back of a garbage truck.

The drummer boy is stunned and sad to find himself in a heap of trash, with a rat snarling at him.  But he plays for the rat...
Boom pum pum boom pum,Boom pum pum boom bum,Boom pat pat boom pat,Boom pat pat boom tat.
The owls grew quiet and drifted off to sleep.
The rat's snarl softens as he listens, but suddenly an owl swoops in and picks up the drummer boy.  When delivered to her nest, hungry baby owl beaks squawk at him.

Boom pum pum boom pum,Boom pum pum boom bum,Boom pat pat boom pat,Boom pat pat boom tat.
They fall asleep to the now-comforting sound of the drum.  After several other trips-turned-concerts, a raccoon carries him to a cemetery   The drummer boy is colder and lonelier than ever; he feels quite lost and very sad.  He feels that the statues and stones are surrounding him are waiting, waiting.  "So, with a heavy heart, he plays his drum for them."

Boom pum pum boom pum,Boom pum pum boom bum,Boom pat pat boom pat,Boom pat pat boom tat.
The next morning, after a heavy snowfall--you can only see the tip of the drummer boy's hat in yet another gorgeous illustration--the little boy comes to deliver a poinsettia to the gravestone in front of the drummer.  "Merry Christmas, Grandpa," he says quietly.  And, delighted, he finds his drummer boy.  They return home together, and the little boy places the drummer boy in his family's nativity scene, next to baby Jesus.

Boom pum pum boom pum,Boom pum pum boom bum,Boom pat pat boom pat,Boom pat pat boom tat.

And the drummer boy's heart feels very warm.

I have never found a children's book that is a better lesson on giving--on giving what you have (which can often be so little) so selflessly.  It is a beautiful story and the message, so moving.  The drummer boy is taken--helpless to move himself, he never has a choice whether to stay or go--from one place to the next.  Always, at first he feels alone, but when he finds someone to whom he can give this gift of music (or maybe it is with whom he should share it?), his heart is warmed.

It is so very appropriate that this book was tucked among beets and tomatoes and strawberries, chicken and steak and milk.  All those things nourish us, as do books.  The lessons within this particular book last so much longer as we teach and re-teach it to our children, and learn and re-learn it ourselves.

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