cover image 88 Instruments

88 Instruments

Chris Barton, illus. by Louis Thomas. Knopf, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-553-53814-4

It’s time to take up an instrument, and Barton’s young narrator, confronted with 88 options at the music shop, is overwhelmed. “How am I supposed to pick just one?” he asks, as his beaming parents look on. Each instrument, the boy discovers, has a distinctive, superlative quality: the accordion is “the squeeziest,” a triangle is “the easiest,” a trombone is “the slideyest.” Working in ink and watercolor, newcomer Thomas draws a young man so serious and eager that at one point he’s tackling four instruments simultaneously—it’s clear that no one will need to force him to practice. Ultimately, it’s the piano that strikes a chord, even with its 88 keys to master: “I’ll just learn it one note at a time,” he says. It’s a little disappointing that Barton (Mighty Truck) dodges why exactly the piano becomes the perfect choice for his hero, but the book is spot-on in a bigger sense: when music education works, it’s because instrument and student feel made for each other. Ages 3–7. Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency. (Aug.)