Johnny’s First Drum
by Curtis Cooper
Barrel of Monkeys Publishing Company

"It’s the beat, he thought, that moves us. It’s the beat that leads the band. And that’s what I should practice to be the very best I can."

Seven-year-old Johnny gets a drum for his birthday and sets out on a quest to learn to play. He uses the resources in his community to observe and understand what it takes to make “those drumsticks bounce.” First, he follows a circus band and watches the drummers’ hands and their marching feet keeping time to the beat. He notices the timing of the other instruments tapping, booming, crashing, and tick-tocking between the drum beats. He counts the beats alongside the conductor and finds the upbeats and the backbeat and longs to learn the roll. Inspired by the band, he buys a music book and starts taking music lessons with a drummer. He studies and practices and deepens his love for playing music.

Cooper’s rhythmic tale of learning how to play a musical instrument is delightful and instructive. Parents who want to teach their children the value of learning how to play an instrument through music lessons will want to read this book aloud to their children. While the drum is Johnny’s instrument of choice, other instruments are celebrated as Johnny learns how the sounds of the drum contribute to the music of the marching band. While some of the language is technical, Cooper provides an excellent glossary of musical terms that will help young readers begin to build their musical vocabulary. For those readers who just want to enjoy the fun sounds of instruments with colorful illustrations of a marching band, this book will also satisfy. While there are a few minor grammatical errors and the occasional odd sentence structure created to force a rhyme, this joyous march through music exploration is still sure to please.

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