Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 4 to 8
- Grade: k to 3
- Reading age: 4 to 8
From the international best-selling author of Sidewalk Flowers and a world-renowned illustrator, this picture book is about the power of song, inspired by the story of the Tower of Babel.
This unusual, thought-provoking story begins with an old woman telling a tale to a group of children in a playground. One of the boys can’t understand what she is saying, so another offers to translate. The old woman’s tale is inspired by the Tower of Babel story: In the days when everyone spoke the same language, the people built a tower to reach God. But God was annoyed and sent a dragon to destroy the tower, then created new languages for everyone so that they couldn’t understand each other. Fortunately, two little girls find a way to communicate through song.
Told entirely through dialogue, moving back and forth between the old woman’s tale and the exchange between the two boys, this original, sometimes funny story raises questions about what divides us and what brings us together, in spite of all our differences — it is the power of song in this case, which ultimately brings hope.
Piet Grobler brings a masterful visual interpretation to this layered story, rendering the old woman and children in the playground in monochromatic tones and the characters in the old woman’s tale in a naïve style with vibrant color, complete with incomprehensible languages in hand-drawn speech balloons. An author’s note explains JonArno Lawson’s inspiration for the story.
Key Text Features
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Identify who is telling the story at various points in a text.
Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
About the authors
Born in Hamilton, Ontario and raised nearby in Dundas, JonArno Lawson's most formative experiences as a child occurred in Florida which he visited for an extended stay at the age of eight. Happy to be missing almost an entire year of school, he filled his days at the beach digging holes and collecting shells and coconuts, travelling in glass-bottomed boats and touring nature parks that featured free-roaming monkeys and parrots. He wore a ship captain's hat at all times, and a green pouch in which he kept dozens of ticket stubs, a musket ball, brass souvenir coins that bore the faces of various American presidents, and other treasures which he hoards to this day. JonArno is a two-time winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Children's Poetry, for Black Stars in a White Night Sky in 2007 and again in 2009 for A Voweller's Bestiary. In 2011 his poetry collection Think Again was short-listed for the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Award. JonArno lives in Toronto with his wife Amy Freedman and his children Sophie, Ashey and Joseph, all of whom assist the author with phrases, topics and sometimes even complete lines for use in his poems.
Piet Grobler is a world-renowned illustrator of children’s books. He has illustrated more than eighty books, which have been published in many languages, and he has won a number of awards, including two silver medals at the Noma Concours (Japan), the Octogone de Chêne (France) and a Golden Apple at the Biennial of Illustration in Bratislava. He lives in Pretoria and is the visiting Professor in Illustration at the University of Worcester, in the United Kingdom.