Musical matriarchs must not be my cup of tea.
*The idea of playing a tune so enchanting that it shrinks huge expanses of land and water is quite beautiful
*Illustrator Barry Root is a wizard when it comes to the interplay between sunlight and shadows, as evidenced by every single page in the book
*Including a song, complete with musical notation in the form of a lead sheet, is a bonus that must have taken some serious effort
*The whole banjo thing and its relation to bluegrass music almost seems arbitrary; in other words, I would have liked to have seen why these details were chosen to be a part of the central theme instead of talking about them on the pages surrounding the actual story
*Since this story is about a real life family, I find it weird that Owen's grandma has to put on her 1000-mile shoes for a 150-mile trip and cross a desert for her trip from Iowa to Wisconsin (sure, authors are entitled to take liberties, but why not make it more relatable to your own experiences so it's strikes a chord with the grandkids)
*Does this kid live alone -- why doesn't (co-author Sarah Martin Busse) mom make an appearance if granny and grandson do
ONE DAD'S OPINION
I can't think of another book that is more split between a Borrow and a Donate. The positives and negatives really balance each other out. The story isn't annoying or gratifying. It's OK. But I am going to throw the Donate tag at it for one simple reason, as petty as it might sound. Co-author Jacqueline Briggs Martin claims to be the "author of many fine picture books, including Snowflake Bentley, winner of the Caldecott Medal." Here's the problem with that statement...the Caldecott medal is really about the illustration in a book (most of the major criteria revolve around artwork), so being a writer of an award winner is misleading. Had she been a Newberry Award winner, I might have been swayed into giving it a Borrow, but, since she mentions the Caldecott about 50 times on her personal website, it's getting a Donate.