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Friday, June 1, 2012

Kali's Song, written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2012. ages 4 and up

"...he laid his arrows down,
put the bow to his mouth,
and plucked the string.
Animals listened
and were still.
Birds listened
and were still.
And the stars came out to listen."

As you can see from the cover, Kali is a young boy born at the time of the cave men. And he lives a life that is unsurprising to those who have read anything about that time. The men hunt for food, often the woolly mammoth. His mother is an artist and she captures r life on the walls of their cave, through drawings that show the animals, the tools, and the animals of their world.

Kali is being groomed to be a huntsman, as are the other boys who live in close proximity. He practices with his bow and arrow as he is expected to do; while practicing, he inadvertently discovers another use for his bow. He can make music with it!

Music becomes his most important pursuit when no one is watching. When hunt day comes, Kali accompanies the men and boys in their quest for food to sustain the community. Kali is in awe when he sees how large and truly grand the mammoths are. In that moment, Kali turns to music...what he is hearing in his head as he watches these majestic animals. The music draws the mammoths closer and Kali becomes revered as a shaman who has great power over the animals. His status within his tribe remains strong even when he is an old man, and music is essential to his being:

"And every evening,
even when he was a very old man,
Kali went to the hills with his bow,
closed his eyes, and played his bow-harp
until the stars came close to listen."

Isn't that lovely?

The illustrations are framed as if painted on rough walls and placed on torn papers (handmade, we are told) and have the feeling of an authentic depiction of cave paintings. They add texture to this gentle, quiet story of a young boy who follows his muse.

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