Mr. Tanner

Harry Chapin, illus. by Bryan Langdo. Ripple Grove (SPU, dist.), $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-9913866-8-0
The late singer-songwriter Chapin’s 1976 song “Mr. Tanner” gets a picture-book adaptation that softens some of the song’s melancholy, though not much. Inspired by real-life events, it tells of Mr. Tanner, a “cleaner from a town in the Midwest,” who loves to sing but recognizes that although “music was his life, it was not his livelihood.” After friends urge him to “use his gift instead of cleaning coats,” Mr. Tanner hops a plane to New York City and performs at Town Hall, but the reviews are not kind. Langdo (There’s a Cat in Our Class!) portrays Mr. Tanner as a well-dressed brown bear, and his sensitive watercolors draw out the joy Mr. Tanner gets from singing, his shock over the bad review, and its effect on him: after returning home, “he smiled and just said nothing, and he never sang again.” Although closing images of Mr. Tanner singing to himself at his shop temper this outcome somewhat, it’s a somber reminder of the way criticism can get inside an artist’s head. Ages 5–7. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/27/2017
Release date: 05/01/2017
Genre: Children's
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