by David McPhail
Mole Music has so many levels of interest that it is difficult to know where to start. Carolyn and I did our picture book presentation on Mole Music and found new aspects of the writing craft or the illustrator’s craft every time we read the story.
The over all theme of Mole Music is that music enriches, comforts, soothes, and enlivens our lives. A simple, lonely mole learns to play the violin. With quiet tenacity, the mole practices over years to be able to play the violin beautifully. I wish that I had the persistence and drive of that little mole! Unknown to the mole, his music affects the people and animals above ground. Single handedly, the mole brings harmony to his little patch of earth, above and below ground.
The page can be divided horizontally to show two different stories taking place: one above ground and one below ground. The stories are much bleaker when viewed separately, but the illustrator blends the two stories to demonstrate growth of the mole’s musical talent, growth of a tree, and a growth of harmony amongst the people living, working, and fighting above ground.
The artwork tells much of the story without words. You can see the tree growing and the ground eroding, but this is not mentioned in words. You can see crops being harvested and people gathered under the tree to rest, but this isn’t mentioned in words, either. Most of the story is told in the art, not the words although the written words explain mole’s thoughts and actions. The mole starts, remains, and ends the story quite alone. Of all the characters, the mole is the only one isolated so words are needed to tell his feelings.
This is the first picture book that I have every analyzed in depth. I realize that I have simply not paid attention to picture books as a reading source for older students, but I have begun to correct that error in my classroom.
Lesson plan ideas at: