Heliotrope Books, a New York City book packager, is launching a children’s imprint this season, HelioTot, with the release in paperback original and digital formats of A Song for the Birds by Leah Wells, illustrated by Naomi Rosenblatt (Aug.) A Song for the Birds debuts Heliotot’s How Do You Do Music series, designed to introduce pre-K through beginning readers to music through stories and pictures.
In A Song for the Birds, notes on the treble clef are portrayed as the unique vocalizations of individual birds; for instance, the canary sings in the C note, the duck sings in D, and the eagle sings in E. Eventually, under the direction of the Birdwatcher, the creatures join together to sing a song.
The How Do You Do Music series came about because Wells, a performer, songwriter, and a educator who has taught music to children for more than 15 years, had been using booklets she had created herself that incorporated stories to help students better understand their lessons. The booklets became so popular with her students and their parents that Wells approached her sister, Rosenblatt, who had founded Heliotrope Books in 2006, to discuss finding a publisher. As it turned out, Wells says, not only was Rosenblatt the right publisher for the books, she was also the right illustrator.
“My sister has always been a talented graphic artist,” Wells explained, “When I saw her drawings of the singing birds for the first book, I knew we were going to make a great team.”
Rosenblatt noted also, “While there are many good illustrated songbooks for children, the How Do You Do Music books are the first we know of to include musical notation as part of a story."
There are eight books to date in the How Do You Do Music series, scheduled for release in two to four month intervals, beginning with How the Rainbow Remembers the Notes, which reinforces the placements of notes on the staff with the addition of the bass clef and accidentals. Heliotot titles are distributed through Ingram.
Rosenblatt points out that the How Do You Do Music books are not the two sisters’ first collaboration: “We initially worked together when I was six and Leah was three. We ‘self-published,’ with the help of our mother, The Buffalo Bill Songbook. Leah wrote the songs and I illustrated.”