• Picture Book Snob

The Song for Everyone

A story about the power of music to draw us together by Lucy Morris (Bloomsbury, January 2022)

When I first spotted this beautiful book on the longlist for the 2022 Klaus Flugge Award immediately. When it arrived, I fell in love with it instantly, and even better, so did my two girls (who are almost seven and almost five years old). It's a work of art! An incredibly simple yet powerful story with gentle but meaningful illustrations. The Song for Everyone looks and feels like a classic. The images are magnificent and their slightly retro aesthetic really appeals to me. They remind me a little of the work of John Burningham. The story is about a small town where mysterious music can be heard one day. It changes everyone who hears it and brings the entire community together. But all of a sudden, the melody stops. How will the townspeople bring the magical music back?

My kids ADORE this book. They find it intriguing and love the illustrations. It's funny how images of ordinary people going about their day are often the ones that engage them the most. They're mad about the cat that appears in one spread. They got so excited when they saw a baby in the sling and a basket full of food, which they like to examine closely. They also enjoy speculating about who each townsperson might be and what they do. All of the details are wonderful but our favourite aspect of the book is how the music is rendered visually. This has really captivated my kids and they love to trace the music's journey across each page. Before seeing this book, I wouldn't have thought it was possible to depict something sensory like music in an illustration. The Song for Everyone manages to do this perfectly.

The melody is represented by a colourful flow of intricate, swirling lines and dots, tiny hearts and delicate flowers, petals and leaves. It becomes a cloak for one character, wrapping itself around them and comforting them. For another, it's an umbrella, shielding them from rain and for a young girl cycling, it becomes a wheel that helps them move through the world. This is such a clever, interesting, striking and accurate portrayal of how music nurtures and elevates us all. We're told that, 'the music gave the townspeople something they had been missing. It searched out the lonely and lots, the needy and sad. And above all, it made the people of the town care for one another.' And we can see how it affects animals as well as humans. All the characters in The Song for Everyone are very different to one another but what they have in common is their response to the music. This demonstrates how even though we may not look or sound the same, we all dance to the same tune. A valuable lesson to learn at any age, this is ideal for encouraging empathy in little readers.

My own small hometown is hosting Ireland's annual Fleadh Ceoil this year so it's very exciting, especially as it has been postponed since 2020! 'Fleadh Ceoil' means 'music festival' in English and this is the world’s largest annual celebration of Irish music, language, song and dance. The anticipation has already pulled our town together and I can't wait to see what the event itself brings to our community. The Song for Everyone is a unique and thoughtful tale with exquisite illustrations. It celebrates the transformative power of the arts and emphasises the importance of connecting with the people around us. We love it!

The Song for Everyone was published by Bloomsbury in January 2022 - see this book on the publisher's website Thanks so much to the lovely people in Bloomsbury for kindly sharing this story with us. All opinions expressed are our own.