In My Neighborhood

It is hard work to fit big ideas into the limited confines of a picture book. Though it might seem trivial at first glance, using only approximately 32 pages without overdoing the word count is tough! Picture book authors are great at doing this, and one book I recently read is one that stands out from the rest for the depth of its messaging and the beauty of its design.

In My Neighborhood is the story of Drum, whose family includes a cello father, a piano mother, and a violin brother. Drum’s entire community speaks through music and melody, but Drum feels distant from them because he is limited in that respect. While he can make great rhythms and sounds, it is not the same as the music surrounding him. When he is invited to keep the beat for three saxophone brothers, though, Drum begins to realize how he can contribute to his musical neighborhood in a critical and unexpected way. Please see my full review here.

If music could be seen, it would look something like this picture book. Using jewel tones and cubist-style illustrations, Drum’s world is filled with anthropomorphic instruments walking the streets of his dynamic community. Images shift in angle and approach, incorporating varying shading, textures, and musical notes hidden in trees and buildings. It’s as if Drum’s neighborhood is a symphony channeled into visual representation through these illustrations. There is so much to see that multiple readings are required to catch the nuance and detail in each one.

Coupled with the rich and vibrant pictures is poetic phrasing that not only incorporates rhyme but lands in a pleasant and musical rhythm. Onomatopoeia blends with spoken words to emphasize Drum’s contribution to the sounds of his community, and these are drawn out from the rest of the text through differing color and font choices. While this writing is accessible to young readers because of the length of the text and its pleasant quality when read aloud, older readers will appreciate the depth of the message and thought presented here, as well.

As the sounds of the Vivo soundtrack have permeated our home in recent weeks, I found myself imagining the richness of layered musical numbers on top of this book as I was reading it. Bookended by identical phrases, the rest of the book builds, retreats, and shifts just as a musical composition would do. With each reading, I discovered more detail hidden in this story and my appreciation for it grew. I hope you get the chance to read this stunningly designed book and share it with those you love.

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