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The Picture Book Buzz

Before Music: Where Instruments Come From - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF and Giveaway

Due to supply chain issues, the book was bumped to June 20th. But lucky you, I get to share a sneak peek at this fascinating book, as well as offer a GIVEAWAY.

Before Music: Where Instruments Come From

Author: Annette Bay Pimentel

Illustrator: Madison Safer

Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers (2022)

Ages: 8-12



Music, instrument creation, ingenuity, and inventions.


From award-winning author Annette Bay Pimentel comes an oversize nonfiction picture book exploring how music and musical instruments are made—across time and around the world.

Music doesn’t come out of nothing.

It always starts somewhere . . .

with something . . .

with someone.

Discover how music is made in this survey of musical instruments from around the world. Organized by material—from wood to gourds to found objects and more—Before Music marries a lyrical core text with tons of informational material for curious readers.

In the narrative text, readers will encounter makers as they source their materials and craft instruments by hand, drawing the line from the natural world to the finished product and its sound. The sidebars offer much more to discover, including extensive instrument lists, short bios of musical innovators, and more.

Opening Lines:

BEFORE MUSIC, water drip . . . drip . . . drips.

It washes away soil and eventually fractures the rock underneath.

Someone selects a few of the stones . .

and strikes their edges

tink tink tink

listening as he shapes

the stone.

He is making . . .

What I LOVED about this book:

To make music - ones needs an instrument (even if it's your voice). So how do rocks, found things, clay, gourds, caterpillars, precious metals, trees, giant grass, and fleece become instruments? With a wonderful premise and fun format (divided by the primary material used in creation or production of sound), Annette Bay Pimentel explores the ingenuity and creativity of people around the world and throughout time, who discovered ways to make instruments from some really amazing materials.

When you think about rocks and their uses 10,000 years ago, you probably immediately think of arrowheads or axes. What about a rock "xylophone" dug up in Vietnam? I hadn't heard of that either. Did you know rocks make different sounds based on their molecular structure? With a very straight-forward and easy to follow explanation, Annette discusses the sound differences possible with sandstone and slate. But before the rocks could make music, the earth and humans had to shape and tone them. I love that as Annette introduces each material used to make instruments, she entices the reader with fun onomatopoeia sounds involved in their creation (such as swzswz and ptptptpt).

Text © Annette Bay Pimentel, 2022. Image © Madison Safer, 2022.

After explaining a bit about the process and history of making music with rocks, Annette explores a modern rock musician in England and his "rock harmonicon." Learning that these instruments can play music from Beethoven to waltzes, I am really curious to find a museum with a rock harmonicon. If a reader's curiosity hasn't peaked enough, Annette and Madison Safer provide an informational spread highlighting other rock instruments which can be struck or blown. This basic format carries through all the various materials used to make musical instruments.

The book continues with found instruments - shell horns, steel drums (from a garbage can), and some curious items which can be blown, shaken, plucked, or rubbed. In the next section, a mini chemistry lesson beautifully explains why firing clay instruments enhances the music they make. It was interesting to learn about items which contain clay (wiring & toothpaste) and see Madison's fun illustrations of a number of clay instruments.

Text © Annette Bay Pimentel, 2022. Image © Madison Safer, 2022.

I enjoyed the collection of gourd instruments from around the world (such as the Chinese Hulusi) and was fascinated to discover that silk worm threads can be used as instrument strings. Since string instruments can be plucked, struck, rubbed, or swung, and the strings are made from a wide variety of natural and man-made materials, it's no wonder this section required two spreads to feature different string instruments.

Text © Annette Bay Pimentel, 2022. Image © Madison Safer, 2022.

Sound waves and metallurgy are touched on with the discussion on metal bells and instruments, as well as reed instruments. There are so many tidbits of information throughout this book; explorations of musical traditions around the world, explanations of scientific principles, definition of a luthier, the role of tree fungus in helping make great instruments, the marriage of music and science, when saxophones were invented, and the mechanics of a piano and our vocal chords.

This book is fun to peruse, with its lively, lyrical, engaging text and folk-art feeling watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations, you won't realize it's 88 pages. The back matter offers a wonderful discussion on ways to classify instruments and which system Annette chose to use in creating this book. As well as a wonderful challenge to create an original instrument. Overall, this is a delightful book on instruments sure to inspire musicians and tinkerers alike.


- create your own instrument. If you need ideas, check out the ones at the back of the book or these 20 ideas.

- listen to a favorite song, do you hear different instruments? Can you name them?

- do you play an instrument? Did you find it in the book? Do you know when it was invented or some other fun fact about it?

- do you know of an instrument not in the book? Using Annette's system of classification, in which section would that instrument go? Why?

If you missed the interview of Annette Bay Pimentel on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Before Music: Where Instruments Come From Giveaway

Hope you enjoyed this preview peak. One lucky reader will win a copy of Before Music: Where Instruments Come From.

- Simply comment below or on Monday's interview post with Annette Pimentel (here) to be entered in the random drawing.

- Be sure to say where you shared the post (Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram), and I'll add additional entries for you.

- *Sorry US Residents only.*


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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