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African Orchestra (The)
Wendy Hartmann; illustrated by Joan Rankin

published 2017 • 8.5" x 10.75" • 32 pages • full-color throughout
ISBN 9781566560481 • hardback • $17.95

“PreS-Gr 2–Nature is music to humans and is celebrated in this lyrical picture book about Africa’s sounds and the instruments used to re-create them. Hartmann produces harmony and rhythm relying on rhyming couplets to introduce native flora and fauna. The prevalence of onomatopoeia helps the verse “snap,” ‘crackle,’ and ‘huummmm,’ making this an attractive selection for storytime. Rankin’s watercolor illustrations envelop each page gently, seamlessly intertwining with and reinforcing the text. On one spread, ‘We are the herds/that gallop and run/We “rumble” and “boo-oom” in the African drum.’ On the left, brown hands thrum on a drum, while galloping hooves of bright and varying hues mimic the same pattern of human arms and sound. One can hear the ‘rumble’ and ‘boo-oom’ replicated in the drummer’s beat. Like Lloyd Moss’s Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, this is a great examination of onomatopoeia and instrumentation, but pair it with Eric Carle’s I See a Song for a true sensory experience. VERDICT A beautiful addition to any library serving young children.”
—School Library Journal

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“In the beginning, when all things began,

these were the sounds which were music to man.

‘Cicadas, crickets, beetles and frogs
Seedpods, cocoons, hollowed out logs
Crackling fires, the patter of rain
Thundering hooves on the African plain
Birds in the air, in the trees—on the land
Wind in the grass through the leaves—over sand.”

With magical illustrations from Joan Rankin, and poetry from masterful storyteller, Wendy Hartmann, The African Orchestra lyrically captures the magic of the African sounds of nature. From the clicking of crickets to the crackle of the fire, follow the journey that celebrates these sounds, in the rhythm and music of Africa.

Wendy Hartmann is an award-winning South African author of more than forty children’s books. They range from concept and counting, beginner readers, high interest/low vocabulary readers to picture books. Her books have been selected for honor’s lists and nominated for awards for writing and illustration. Wendy lives in Table View, Cape Town. She is married and has two daughters. In her spare time, she paints and has taken part in numerous exhibitions and has works in private collections internationally.

Joan Rankin has illustrated over thirty books for children. She received the South African HAUM Daan Retief Prize for children’s book illustration in 1986 and the Katrine Harries Award for Children’s Book Illustration in 1991. She has illustrated numerous books on the McElderry list, including A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson and Off to First Grade by Louise Borden. Joan recently won the MER Prize for best illustrated children’s book for Just Sisi/Net Sisi written by Wendy Hartmann.

Advance praise for The African Orchestra

“Wendy Hartmann has a musician’s ear for words and Joan Rankin’s pictures sing with color and expression.”
—Niki Daly, author-illustrator of Jamela’s Dress and Not So Fast Songololo

“What a joyous introduction to the natural sounds that become music. The book is as rhythmic as a song, the rhymes perfect, and I want to sing it aloud.”
—Jane Yolen, author of Owl Moon, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, You Nest Here with Me, and others

Media Reviews
“In simple and magical verse, Hartmann transports readers to the beautiful landscapes of Africa with a celebration of African music and instruments and the accompanying splendid natural sounds that birthed them. Soft mixed-media illustrations with a strong emphasis on watercolors provide the backdrop for this celebration of African cultural contributions and the natural wonders that offered their inspiration. Hartmann eloquently writes, 'In the beginning, when all things began, / these were the sounds which were music to man,' reminding readers of the long history of Africa as the motherland for all human beings. Featured in the onomatopoeic orchestra are the clicking of crickets, the crackle of fire, the 'cr-i-sshh' of seedpod rattles, the 'hummmm' of honeybees, and the 'rumble' and 'boo-oom' of the hooved animals of the grassland. Birds, frogs, and zebras are found along with choruses of traditionally dressed African men and women. 'Through African nights and African days,' Hartmann emphasizes, 'THIS is the music that the orchestra plays!' With its onomatopoeia, it’s a natural for participatory read-alouds, perhaps paired with Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin, by Lloyd Moss and illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (1995), and similar musical outings. A magical tour of the natural wonders of the African continent tied with a celebration of the cultural foundations of African people who mined these sounds to create beautiful music. (Picture book. 5-8)”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Traditional lutes, drums, rattles, and reed flutes join crackling fires, thundering hooves, and the sounds of the wind in the grass, singing frogs, crickets, birds, and more that make up the natural beauty of The African Orchestra. Gentle rhymes and rhythms by Wendy Hartman build as innovative watercolors from Joan Rankin see the musicians gather as the seasons change and day turns to night, all while the wild and hallowed music of Africa plays on.”
—Foreword Reviews

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