Monday, December 20, 2010
Review #79: The Little Drummer Boy
Lily (age 7): Ezra Jack Keats...
Dad: ...who is a very famous illustrator...
Lily: ...made the pictures for The Little Drummer Boy. Rum pa pum pum.
Isaac (age 12): Isn't this a song too?
Dad: It is a song. And you know, I never really liked the song. So I didn't expect to like this book when I first saw it. But I LOVE it.
Dad: Because the pictures are so awesome. I love the book despite not being a fan of the song.
Lily: Is the illustrator even alive still?
Dad: I don't think so.
Lily: That's sad.
Isaac: (flipping through the pages) Good. There are more than three wise men in this book.
Gracie (age 10): One, two, three, four, five. And a drummer boy.
Dad: You guys are sticklers for that. You mentioned that in a different Christmas review too.
Isaac: The Bible doesn't say three wise men -- it doesn't tell how many. It only says wise men came.
Gracie: With three gifts.
Dad: Tell me about the pictures...
Lily: The art is beautiful.
Isaac: My favorite part of the book is the collage-y art.
Gracie: It looks like cut paper in one part, and then it looks like a stamp here, and then it looks like paint over there, and string there.
Isaac: I see watercolor in there. Acrylic. Marbled paper. All kinds of art smashed together.
Dad: That's called "mixed media."
Isaac: And his drawings aren't smooth. They are kind of bumpy.
Dad: A good word for that would be "painterly."
Isaac: That's a word?
Dad: It means the paint looks like paint. Sometimes people use paint but they try to disguise it - they want it to look like a photograph. Other people are happy to let their materials show through.
Isaac: I paint painterly. But it's not like I'm trying to paint realistic or painterly. That's just how it comes out.
Gracie: The art in this book is emotional. The boy is all sad... "I am a poor boy too, I have no gift for you..."
Dad: And the art is gray...
Gracie: But then the next page got all happy when he said, "Shall I play my drum for you?"
Lily: Yellow! It's beginning to be yellow.
Isaac: Bright yellow. The pictures are very moody. When the drummer boy is happy the colors are brighter.
Dad: From one page to another. Perfect use of cools and warms.
Gracie: Sad... then... Yea! Sad... then...Yea!
Lily: The yellow brings happiness.
Dad: And the colors stay warm for the whole rest of the book.
Gracie: Pa rum pa pum pum.
Lily: He also leaves lots of sky and space in the pictures.
Dad: That's one of my favorite things about the book. He fills the whole page with color, but he doesn't feel like he has to pack it full of characters.
Gracie: They save Jesus until the end of the book as a surprise.
Lily: You don't even get to see Mary's face until the end.
Isaac: Why is baby Jesus is holding a stick?
Dad: Now, was there a drummer boy in the Bible?
Dad: How do you feel about them making up a character?
Isaac: I think it's fine. People have made history-type-things like that before.
Dad: Historical fiction?
Isaac: Yeah. Like, maybe a story about a war has a guy who wasn't really there, but he's in the story.
Gracie: Why don't you like the song, Dad?
Dad: The tune for one thing. But it's also because of what we were just talking about. There are plenty of awesome things in the Christmas story that actually did happen. Why not sing about those? Why make up pretend stuff?
Isaac: But then you got the book.
Dad: Yep. The art attracted me. And as a book, it actually makes me feel less weird. Maybe because in a picture book you inherently have to make up so much anyway -- any illustrations have to be imagined.
Gracie: Pa rum pa pum pum!
Dad: How do you guys feel about the song?
Gracie: I love it.
Isaac: I don't think it's bad.
Dad: It is respectful to the real story.
Isaac: It's not making fun of it or anything.
Dad: Granted, we'd never sing The Little Drummer Boy at church, but I don't think it's a song to be avoided.
Isaac: Ha ha ha! The whole choir singing "Ba rum pa pum pum!"
Dad: Any last words?
Gracie: Ezra Jack Keats, make more books!
Lily: He's dead!
Dad: That would be a little hard for him now.
Gracie: Oh yeah.
Illustrator: Ezra Jack Keats
Published, 1968: Macmillan
Like it? Here it is