cover image Wood-Hoopoe Willie

Wood-Hoopoe Willie

Virginia Kroll. Charlesbridge Publishing, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-88106-409-4

Willie, a spirited African American child, can't seem to keep his feet or hands still: ``If his toes weren't tapping, his knuckles were rapping.'' The boy's incessant, impromptu music-making makes his Grandpa recall the dundun drums , ecasas and balas that he saw on a trip to Africa. Willie longs to play these handmade instruments of his ancestors, and finally gets his chance during the Kwanzaa festival at the African-American Center. The boy fills in for a missing drummer, thus freeing the wood-hoopoe--an African bird whose tree-pecking and cackling creates rhythmic music--that Grandpa insists has been trapped within him. Kroll's ( Masai and I ) melodic tale conveys the warmth among Willie's loving family as well as the musical legacy of several African peoples. Past and present fuse gracefully in Roundtree's boldly hued art--though the characters' faces are somewhat rudimentarily executed, the artist's depiction of the traditional instruments and dress of Africa is particularly striking. Ages 3-8. (Feb.)