Playing from the Heart

Playing from the Heart 51ja1uzrNWL__SY495_BO1,204,203,200_Playing from the Heart

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4 – 99

Themes: Music, Piano lessons, Creativity, Family relationships, Father and son, Love

Opening: “The piano stood quietly in the living room for years. Until the day Raj first plunked and pushed the keys, delighted by every sound.”

Synopsis: A boy discovers the beautiful sounds he can make when he thumps the keys of the family piano. His father notices his son, Raj, has a gift for playing from his heart and signs him up for lessons. Raj begins to read notes, learn scales, studies hard and plays classical music. He practices  hard and becomes an excellent pianist over the years. One day he realizes that he doesn’t experience the joy he used to feel and stops playing. Years pass and Raj takes a job in the city. When he receives a call that his father is ill, he hurries home. His father makes a special request for Raj to play the music that first brought him joy.

Why I like this book:

Peter H. Reynolds’ newest treasure, Playing from the Heart, is a timeless story for both children and adults. He hopes that as children become more involved with a musical instrument, “they won’t forget their original joy” and learn to “bend a few rules.” The lyrical text sings from the pages. Reynolds’ illustrations are joyful, serious, emotive and lovingly rendered in black ink with splashes of color. His ample use of white space gives one a sense of freedom.

Playing from the Heart will touch a chord in both young and old who have played an instrument and given it up. I played the piano for years, took a break because of burn out, and returned to my lessons with  renewed enthusiasm. When my husband read Reynolds’ story it stirred up memories of giving up his trumpet in college.

The ending is endearing as Raj sits down to the piano and hopes his heart will remember the joyful melodies he played with such abandonment as a child. There’s heart, there’s love, and there’s a deep connection between father and son. Playing from the Heart is a winner!

Resources: Introduce your child to a musical instrument. It can be a simple as a kazoo, harmonica, drums or xylophone. Encourage your children to be creative and make their own music. If you have a piano, let them play without teaching them. According to  Reynolds, “Creativity thrives on bravery and originality. Let that flow and see where you go.” Visit the award-winning author and illustrator at his website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

45 thoughts on “Playing from the Heart

  1. I still remember the excitement my son had when he saw his first violin. Unfortunately, he didn’t want to practice and stopped playing. I hope he’ll pick it up again one of these days. This book sounds like it will strike a chord with many of us. Great review, Pat!


  2. Love this idea. I never felt that joy in playing, but my mother did, and she could hear a song once and sit down and play it. I studied and took about a year’s worth of lessons, but ….meh. I think people who feel the joy are really lucky and blessed.


    • Peter has written such a wonderful story encouraging kids to make their own music. If they feel that joy, they may do more. Perfect message for parents to let go. My mother could play be ear — I had forgotten that! I had to study, but it was pure joy and my passion in high school. Almost studied music in college.


  3. Thanks for sharing this one. I am a huge Peter Reynolds fan–and sometimes when no one is home, I play a song or two on the old piano. 🙂 I feel the joy but apparently hurt everyone’s ears.


  4. I’m intrigued by this book. I’ve never come across a fiction picture book that followed the main character from childhood to adulthood. And how marvelous that the story deals with music. My daughter began at the piano and showed great feeling in her music, but when her piano teacher didn’t have space for her one year, my daughter’s interest waned. She now wants to learn to play the guitar. I hope one day she’ll return to the piano, too.


    • I think you’d enjoy the book. Leave it around where your daughter can find it. I believe it’s important to let kids explore and experiment with many instruments. Perhaps she can through a school program.


  5. Reynolds does it again. He seems to have an endless source of wonderful ideas to inspire children and adults to follow their creative dreams. I must get a hold of this one!


  6. This book sounds like another wonderful story from Peter Reynolds. I, too, left a couple instruments behind, yet somehow harbor an urge to take one up again….Thanks for sharing. I’ll be looking this one up!


  7. I must have this book! Peter Reynolds is one of my favourites. I have a piano that I stopped playing about a year ago. Maybe this will reinspire me:)


  8. I haven’t heard of this book, but now I’ll be on the lookout. I play piano and have wanted to write a book with piano lessons as a topic. Thanks, Pat!


  9. Love it! I took five years of piano lessons as a kid then didn’t play for 20 years. Our worship leader pulled me back into it 8 years ago and I picked up where I left off. Now I love playing keyboard in the band! I think this book just might rate higher with the 21 and older portion of your 4-99 year age recommendation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love your story. Classic example of youth letting go of music because it isn’t fun anymore and rediscovering it later in life. After reading other comments similar to yours, I do believe this book is really grasped by adults. Instead of emphasizing perfection with kids, focus on the joy of playing. Reynolds’ appreciated my posting the age 99. Thanks for sharing!


  10. We love Peter’s books! Oh, the joy of music and the agony of having to practice to make it perfect. My mother made me practice and I grew to hate playing the guitar because of it. It wasn’t my “thing”, but I really do admire those that are musically gifted.


    • I am so happy you enjoy Peter’s new book! I love the personal stories each of you have shared. I believe every child should be exposed to exposed to music — if only for the pure enjoyment of making sounds and having fun!


  11. This one sounds like it will leave me in tears, in a good way. I used to play the piano and the violin and have just recently been re-energized to play. It’s a gift to sit down and realize you aren’t starting from the beginning. Thank you for writing about this book!


  12. Even hearing the message inspires me – I play several instruments, to varying degrees of skill, and this just reminded me to have fun.
    I have a violin, and I take lessons, but I like it because I’m learning to fiddle with it, and my instructor is pretty nice about not enforcing strict techniques. 🙂


    • You sound like you have an excellent teacher. I love that he lets you be creative. I studied with strict German teachers, but that was because I nearly majored in music (piano) in college. But, I continued to study and play. Music is such a joy and makes everything okay!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I remember how much joy and comfort the clarinet provided my daughter. Now a busy working mother, she no longer plays. I miss hearing her music and I suspect she does as well. Thanks for the review.


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