Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion by Shannon Stocker

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion

Shannon Stocker, Author

Devon Holzwarth, Illustrator

Dial Books for Young Readers, Biography, Apr. 12, 2022

Suitable for ages: 4–8

Themes: Music, Deafness, Listening, Feeling, Resilience,  Percussion, Biography

Opening: “This is a story of music. Of obstacles. Of strnegth and hard work. Of all you can accomplish when you dream. If you only . . . listen.“usPublisher’s Synopsis:

A gorgeous and empowering picture book biography about Evelyn Glennie, a deaf woman, who became the first full-time solo percussionist in the world.

“No. You can’t,” people said.
But Evelyn knew she could. She had found her own way to listen.

From the moment Evelyn Glennie heard her first note, music held her heart. She played the piano by ear at age eight, and the clarinet by age ten. But soon, the nerves in her ears began to deteriorate, and Evelyn was told that, as a deaf girl, she could never be a musician. What sounds Evelyn couldn’t hear with her ears, though, she could feel resonate through her body as if she, herself, were a drum. And the music she created was extraordinary. Evelyn Glennie had learned how to listen in a new way. And soon, the world was listening too.

Why I like this book:

This inspiring biography about Evelyn Glennie will have a special impact on readers — especially those who are differently abled. How often children are told “no, you can’t do that.”  And something within them says, “watch me.” Shannon Stocker’s story will find a home in the hearts of many children. The text is lyrical and Devon Holzwarth’s vibrant and lively illustrations capture the essence of the movement Evelyn feels when the vibrations move through her body. Excellent collaboration between the author and illustrator. 

I really enjoyed the special relationship Evelyn had with her teacher, Ron Forbes, who encouraged her to feel the music in her own way. For Evelyn it was feeling the vibration in her heart and her entire body. My favorite scene is when Forbes encourages her to remove her hearing aids (not a likely thing to do) and feel the vibrations. She also takes off her shoes. She discovers that without her aids, the vibrations move through every part of her. And she finds her own way of listening and making music. She eventually ends up studying at the Royal Academy of Music. In later years, Evelyn Glennie became the first full-time solo percussionist in the world. 

This book spoke to me because I have a daughter who is hearing impaired. She began wearing hearing aids at age 4.  It opened the world to her. And, one of the things she loved was music and movement. We let her take piano lessons and play the violin in the middle and high school. She has a lovely singing voice and sang in a choir, but always positioned herself a certain way and stood by someone with a strong voice. She learned to adapt in her own way. 

Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end of the book, as you will learn about the author and her own journey with music. She spoke many times to Evelyn and shares her wisdom for young readers. To learn more about Evelyn, visit her website.

Resources: What a great classroom book. It would be fun to have a teacher to bring in some drums and other instruments, especially if there is a music department. Have children take off their shoes, touch the walls and feel the vibrations that are created.  

Shannon Stocker is a writer and musician who has always danced to the beat of her own drum. She is the author of the picture book Can U Save the Day? and the 21st Century Junior Library:  Together We Can: Pandemic early reader series. Shannon lives with her husband, Greg, and her children, Cassidy and Tye, in Louisville, Kentucky. Learn more about her at her 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 website.

*Reviewed from a library copy.