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Pokko and the Drum

by Matthew Forsythe

Horn Book The biggest mistake Pokko's parents ever made was giving her a drum," begins this story about a young frog musician's path to creative fulfillment, benevolent (mostly) leadership, and satisfying self-expression. After that attention-grabbing opening line, the well-paced text builds anticipatory humor by backing up to describe earlier gifts Pokko's parents regretted: a slingshot, a llama, and a balloon, all shown in uncluttered spreads featuring the game but poker-faced Pokko. Then comes the drum: Pokko's face lights up and she reaches toward her instrument, her now-constant companion. She practices inside the house; her parents send her out. She goes to the forest, where her playing attracts a banjo-strumming raccoon, a trumpet-blowing rabbit, and more; soon she's trailed by a parade of like-minded, music-making creatures (minus the rabbit, who gets eaten by a wolf: "No more eating band members or you're out of the band," deadpans Pokko). There are lots of visual nods and references in Forsythe's textured, painterly watercolor, gouache, and colored-pencil illustrations--Rousseau, Sendak, Lobel, Ungerer, Keats, Klassen--but, like his amphibian protagonist, this idiosyncratic author/illustrator/animator (The Brilliant Deep, rev. 7/18; Warning: Do Not Open This Book!; the Adventure Time television series) marches to his own beat. (c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal PreS-Gr 1—An omniscient narrator explains the story's central problem on the first page: "The biggest mistake Pokko's parents ever made was giving her a drum." It was, apparently, not an isolated error in judgment by these amphibians. Readers observe the young frog positioning herself in a slingshot, riding a llama in the living room, borne aloft by a balloon. The apron-wearing father keeps lamenting their latest purchase to his constantly reading wife, who can't hear anything due to the din. Forsythe's watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil compositions employ a warm palette of browns, oranges, reds, yellows, and greens. Polka-dot, patchwork, and striped patterns against cream-colored backgrounds create a cozy environment. When her father encourages drumming outside their homey mushroom, Pokko enters a lush forest with Matisse-like flora—but soon a reddish-yellow light permeates the page, and the eerie quiet causes her to start tapping "just to keep herself company." She is soon followed by a banjo-playing raccoon, a trumpet-wielding rabbit, a host of other instrumentalists, and an appreciative audience. Children may identify some characters from rhymes and folk tales. In addition to being a talented musician (something the father comes to recognize), the protagonist also proves to be an effective band leader. Faced with unsavory behavior from a wolf, she confronts him and earns a sincere apology; the show goes on. VERDICT Creative design and painterly scenes portray a heroine who takes risks and follows her heart into experiences that bring a little danger, but also joy and satisfaction.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Pokko's parents give her a drumbiggest mistake everand she makes a thoroughgoing racket.Her father suggests taking her drum outside. "But don't make too much noise. We're just a little frog family that lives in a mushroom, and we don't like drawing attention to ourselves." Pokko sets off quietly into the too-quiet forest. She taps her drum "just to keep herself company." When a banjo-playing raccoon follows her, she plays louder. A trumpet-playing rabbit's next, then a wolf, ostensibly there for the music. In a plot twist evocative of Jon Klassen, the wolf eats the rabbit, earning Pokko's stern rebuke: "No more eating band members or you're out of the band." Soon, many animalssome making music, others enjoying itare following Pokko. When her father calls her to dinner, he hears faint music, growing louder. The crowds sweep in, carrying off Pokko's parents. (Comically, her mother's still engrossed in the book she's been reading throughout.) Her father thinks he spies Pokko down in front. "And you know what?I think she's pretty good!" Pokko's a self-possessed marvel, brave enough to walk alone, face down a wolf, and lead a band. Forsythe's smudgily glowing paintings alternate Rousseau-esque forest forms with cozy interiors; stripes and harlequin diamonds decorate clothing.Celebrating both community and individuality, this droll, funny offering will tickle kids and adults alike. (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly “The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her a drum,” begins this dark, hilarious tale by Forsythe (The Brilliant Deep). As Pokko marches across the colorful bed the frog family shares, her sticks poised for big blows, her father expresses deep misgivings. The next day, he prevails upon her to head outside—“We’re just a little frog family that lives in a mushroom, and we don’t like drawing attention to ourselves”— and she does, venturing into the surrounding woods alone. After Pokko resists the forest’s silence, “tapping on her drum,” a banjo-playing raccoon falls in behind her; as Pokko plays louder, a rabbit with a trumpet appears. An eager wolf joins, too, with less-than-musical results (“No more eating band members or you’re out of the band,” Pokko orders). As the drummer plays, the parade grows, and pretty soon, it’s a throng, joined even by her noise-averse dad. Forsythe’s tapestrylike spreads give the tense, funny sequences a lush elegance marked by amusing visual asides, painterly interiors, and a triumphant parade. In embracing one’s own beat, Pokko discovers, extraordinary things can happen—surprising things, upsetting things, and glorious things, too. Ages 4–8. Agent: Judith Hansen, Hansen Literary. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list The frog family lives a quiet, out-of-the-way existence in a peaceful forest peaceful, that is, until they present their daughter, Pokko, with a drum. It's a big mistake, they realize even bigger than their previous gifts of a slingshot and llama. We don't like drawing attention to ourselves, her father says, and Pokko agrees to take her drum-banging out into the woods, giving her patient parents some peace. As she walks about, drumming, different forest critters join her, their own instruments in tow, and form a boisterous musical parade. In one dicey moment, a wolf joins the throng. No more eating band members or you're out of the band, Pokko admonishes the apologetic predator. The joyful cacophony resumes, eventually convincing even her quiet parents that perhaps the drum wasn't such a mistake after all. Forsythe's coy, playful writing is a wonder on its own, but the lush watercolor, gouache, and colored-pencil illustrations beautifully elevate the tale, creating a warm and wonderful world that any woodland creature (or small child) would long to inhabit. There is something inspirational about Pokko's determined drumming and steadfast leadership, subtly providing a delightful lesson on the importance of quite literally marching to the beat of your own drum. Sometimes making noise is the only way to be heard.--Emily Graham Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.