Pokko and the Drum

Paula Wiseman Bks/S. & S./. Oct. 2019. 64p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781481480390.
PreS-Gr 1–An omniscient narrator explains the story’s central problem on the first page: “The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her a drum.” It was, apparently, not an isolated error in judgment by these amphibians. Readers observe the young frog positioning herself in a slingshot, riding a llama in the living room, borne aloft by a balloon. The apron-wearing father keeps lamenting their latest purchase to his constantly reading wife, who can’t hear anything due to the din. Forsythe’s watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil compositions employ a warm palette of browns, oranges, reds, yellows, and greens. Polka-dot, patchwork, and striped patterns against cream-colored backgrounds create a cozy environment. When her father encourages drumming outside their homey mushroom, Pokko enters a lush forest with Matisse-like flora—but soon a reddish-yellow light permeates the page, and the eerie quiet causes her to start tapping “just to keep herself company.” She is soon followed by a banjo-playing raccoon, a trumpet-wielding rabbit, a host of other instrumentalists, and an appreciative audience. Children may identify some characters from rhymes and folk tales. In addition to being a talented musician (something the father comes to recognize), the protagonist also proves to be an effective band leader. Faced with unsavory behavior from a wolf, she confronts him and earns a sincere apology; the show goes on.
VERDICT Creative design and painterly scenes portray a heroine who takes risks and follows her heart into experiences that bring a little danger, but also joy and satisfaction.

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