Saturday, January 01, 2011

Mr George Baker

Author: Amy Hest
Illustrations: Jon Muth
Publisher: Candlewick

This compelling tale seemed a good choice to begin the new year, on a site which promotes the joy of books and reading.
Amy Hest brings us a lyrical story of literacy- centred around an African American centenarian and an eight year old boy, both attending school together and making an effort to read.

Set in the morning hours, on the porch, Harry narrates the story. Together they wait for the school bus. They share candies, hug their knees in the chill and watch the leaves falling. The fact that Mr Baker was a famous drummer with a jazz band hardly affects Harry and he prizes his friendship with the old man a lot more.

The prose highlighting young Harry's loving observations of Mr. Baker's old fashioned attire- his suspenders, laces and crumpled shoes, baggy trousers, make you look at the pictures once again. The pages with Mrs Baker reveals a romance that has only strengthened with age.

Together the boy and the man board the bus and share a seat. Each of them faces a difficult lesson in school.

" 'We can do it,' says George after school... his lips sound out the letters. Real slow. But his fingers fly across his knees. Like a big old drum."

"Tappitty-boom, tappitty-boom..."
The gnarled fingers have not lost the beat. (This lit up the young reader's face at home.)

The old man is inspiring in his quest for learning. Harry is non judgemental of his friend's inability to read at such an advanced age.

Jon Muth,the illustrator, is a familiar and admired name here at ST and the illustrations in water colour are lovely and amplify the unlikely friendship, the desire to learn and the ability to love life. The cover page, the jazz scene, the old couple dancing, all add a warmth and old world charm to this story.

All in all, an upbeat tale celebrating friendship and the thirst for learning, both of which transcend race and age.


Choxbox said...

This is one of our favourite books - had picked it from the Strand sale last year.

Nice review Art. The story somewhat reminded of this short film by Sai Paranjpe called Angootha Chhaap - heard of it? Wish it would be aired again on the telly.

Amy Hest has authored another of my favourite picture books (When Jessie Came Across the Sea - had reviewed it earlier on ST) and as for Jon Muth’s magical illustrations - you have said it all.

artnavy said...

We got it at Strand this year!!

Not heard of Angootha Chaap- will try and catch it..

nanands said...

More often than not, skip a generation or two in between, then you a wonderful relationship going! Let us celebrate that.

artnavy said...

yes nanands- we have ample proof dont we?

sandhya said...

This was one of the books we picked up at the Strand sale too, but did not buy. Compensated by reading it on the spot, and I agree with everything said about it so far. A heartwarming tale indeed, beautifully presented!

artnavy said...

I guess A has outgrown pic books largely. But it is a warm tale indeed

Meera Sriram said...

There's something about books that rope in a little jazz - warm yet energetic. I can see this one oozes all of that. And the central idea of the thirst to learn makes it a wonderful pick to begin the year! Great pick Art!

artnavy said...

Thanks Meera!

U said it. Jazz adds jazz!

ranjani.sathish said...

We have this book too Art and you have captured the essence of the book very well ! It is truly a heart warming story.

Artnavy said...

Thanks Ranjani.

It is awesome to see kids bond with elders and the story is so reaffirming of this

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