Music in the Shelves

Sometimes I think that as librarians, one of the things we truly love are shelves. This seems like a silly concept, of course, but stay with me a moment. Books are great, stories are great, sharing with others is a great thing; these three things combined are probably, in fact, three of the main reasons that all of us out there who pursue this noble profession decided to do so. But once inside, we find other little pleasures that we can’t help but fall in love with. For me (and, I think, for all of you probably) among these things, these pleasures of the job, are the shelves in the library. Now of course, there is the physical aspect of the shelves, which, honestly speaking, are not always the most attractive in terms of outright beauty. At least in a regular library. Most of us are used to shelving like this (eh…) and not so much this (yowza!) (Of course, if your library does have some really awesome shelving please feel free to correct me and then share photos :-D).

Some of you out there may find the organization that your shelves provide attractive to the eye. So that of course, is one physical benefit of shelves. But this is not what I speak of today. Today, the love that I speak of is the adventure that shelves hold on them. Wait… adventure? Shelving… and adventure?

Indeed. When we place our things on shelves, when we transfer enough of our stuff that the shelves become burdened with the weight of our interests, it goes without saying that we forget about some of the things that are there. They, in a sense, get lost. And when things get lost, my friend, that means there is an adventure a’brewin in the finding of them. And so, when I go through and organize the shelves here at my ‘brary, I often feel like I’m going on an adventure to find the books that have been lost on the shelves. If I’m not paying close enough attention, I miss a lot. But sometimes I’ll forget about the order of call numbers, glance at a cover or two and come up with a gem like the one pictured here.

As it was published in 1979 and won a Caldecott Honor, I’m sure plenty of you have heard of Ben’s Trumpet before. I have not. For those of you in the same camp as me (the ones that have never had the pleasure of reading this book before) make an effort to change camps as quickly as you can. The book contains the story of one Ben, a frequent patron of the Zig Zag Jazz Club, who idolizes the trumpet player and spends his hours playing air trumpet in emulation of his hero. But will he ever learn to really play the trumpet? Will he ever be cool enough? This is a question that many of us who have pursued creative endeavors have asked ourselves and its one that Ben struggles with in this story. In that sense, I cannot recommend it highly enough for sharing with a young one with artistic interests who needs a little encouragement.

But the real beauty of this book is the artwork. Rachel Isadora (who is also an expressionist) presents some of the most wonderful black and white illustrations here. One brilliant trick that she pulls is the contrast between realistic and abstract drawings. When Ben is listening to music or imagining himself playing music, the drawings become very abstract. But when he’s in the real world of his tiny apartment, or feeling down after being teased, the drawings become more realistic, grounding us in a sense. I’m no artist myself, but this had a great affect on me.

Finally, one thing I’m particularly excited about is that I now have the perfect pairing for Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop. Yes, they are different musical genres, but the tone is similar and both together will make for an excellent musical story time. Now to dress them up with some fun songs (Any ideas?) and a craft (again, ideas?). Then, look out story time kids: it’s musical history in an afternoon! If I do it around Christmas I could even include Miles Davis’ Blue Christmas for some eye-opening education too. Maybe they’re not ready for that though…

So go pick up this gem, share it with your loved ones, and be inspired by the art and the emotion contained in this short, but beautiful piece. Also, if you yourself have had any adventures in your shelves recently and come up with some lost treasure, please feel free to share.

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