cover image AH, MUSIC!


Aliki, . . HarperCollins, $16.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028719-1

Energetic art gives this ode to music a lively visual pace, but doesn't help Aliki (Feelings) reconcile her overtures to two disparate audiences. Covering everything from very basic terms (e.g., volume "is the loudness or softness of the sound") to a "mini history" of jazz ("The Blues: Earthy music formed of certain 'blue-note' chords reflects the melancholy mood of the [1900 Mississippi Delta]"), the volume is ambitious to a fault, attempting to serve the very young as well as more advanced readers. Aliki is at her best in addressing novices, for whom she supplies frequently lyrical definitions: "Rhythm is a marching-band beat, a puffing-train beat, a beating-the-eggs beat, a heart beat." Abundant cartoons amplify these ideas in child-friendly examples (e.g., next to text announcing that "High, sharp pings can sound like piercing light" is an image of Peter Pan flying into a bedroom window, saying via dialogue balloon, "I hear you, Tinkerbell"). But the playful art does not augur a uniformly playful text. Venturing into history, the narrative strains. Occasionally, it falls into the tautological ("Christianity inspired church music") or the recherché (Stravinsky "startled the world with rhythmic neoclassical sounds"). The illustrations, too, can require prior knowledge; for instance, a small image of, presumably, Porgy and Bess appears over a blurb about George Gershwin that identifies him only as a composer-songwriter who "introduced the soul of America to Europe." The tone resumes its childlike simplicity in the final spreads ("We make music. Making music is hard fun"). Attractive but discordant. All ages. (Apr.)