June 29, 2017


Lost and Found, What’s That Sound? By Jonathan Ying. Illustrations by Victoria Ying.  Harper. $14.99.

A Band of Babies. By Carole Gerber. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. Harper. $17.99.

     Here are books with rhythmic, poetic and sonic pleasures aplenty for kids ages 4-8. Both are full of “sound words,” such as “ding” and “boom” and “toot,” that the youngest readers, and pre-readers, will enjoy saying aloud – if not during a book’s first reading, then during its second or third, since both these stories will likely be requested time and again. The brother-and-sister team of Jonathan and Victoria Ying has come up with a creative way to show sounds matched with objects in Lost and Found, What’s That Sound? There is a lost-and-found department somewhere run by Mr. Hare, who wears huge round glasses as big as his head and apparently held on by magic (no earpieces). At the book’s start, shelves and tables show various objects that animals come in to request one by one – based not on what they look like but on how they sound. A mouse wants something that goes “toot,” and Mr. Hare offers a bicycle horn, a toy train or a trumpet; the mouse says what he lost was the trumpet, and he goes off happily. A beaver is missing something that makes a “ding” sound, and Mr. Hare has three possibilities: wind chimes, a countertop bell or a triangle (the metal kind). It is the triangle that went missing, it turns out, and soon the happy beaver is reunited with it. Then an elephant shows up and turns out to have lost a piano (no mean feat, even when it is a very small piano). And a squirrel comes looking for a “boom” maker that proves to be a bass drum. But then a bat flies in – and he is looking for something that makes all sorts of sounds. What could that be? Mr. Hare realizes that it is in the next room – where all the other animals are practicing as a band, of which the bat is the conductor. The animals’ simple but amusing digital renderings and the enthusiasm with which they bring forth the sounds of their instruments are winning, and kids are sure to enjoy a little toot-ding-plunk-boom of their own as they read this book, or have it read to them.

     The band is one of human beings – small ones – in Carole Gerber’s A Band of Babies, and here “band” means “group” as well as “instrumental players.” There are six toddlers in all here, warmly illustrated in colored-pencil renderings by Jane Dyer. Five of the six march along using sticks to beat on small drums, while the leader and only named baby – Benny – plays a small flute as the little ones head out of their day-care center to the small market next door. There, a smiling, traditionally aproned proprietor welcomes the babies and the day-care-center’s operator inside, and then – well, these are babies, after all, curious and a bit prone to messing things up. Benny pushes a cart in which two other babies ride, while three walk alongside. Grabbing cartons and cans, the babies manage to create some chaos: “Bottles bounce./ Boxes tumble./ Toilet paper in a jumble!” The adults seem not to mind, or their attention is elsewhere, because soon the babies are opening packages and snacking on – no, not processed sugary treats or candy, but grapes, bananas, apricots, carrots and yogurt. The eating scenes may not be realistic, but who knows? They might encourage real-world little ones to try some of the foods that these make-believe babies so clearly find delightful. Eventually, leaving a trail of chips and crackers and crumbs behind them, gulping down juice as they walk, the babies file out past a now-worried-looking shopkeeper – but their impromptu march is on its last legs. “Babies wobble./ Babies stoop./ Babies’ eyelids start to droop.” And sure enough, the babies’ instruments are soon strewn all over the floor of the day-care center – and so are the babies, who drop off to sleep in a contented pile. Although not exactly a bedtime book, A Band of Babies could serve as one for a music-loving child, or could be used as daytime reading enjoyment for just about any little one.

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