Saturday, April 1, 2023

Spring Reading 2023 The Girl Who Heard the Music


Mahani Taeve was born and grew up on the island of Rapa Nui, which many students have never heard of although they might recognize the Moai statues (they may have heard them referred to as Easter Island heads). She heard the music of nature around the island, as well as the ukuleles played by islanders. Visitors who came to the island sometimes brought other instruments "and her fingers itched to play the instruments she heard." Eventually, Mahani left the island to study and compete internationally as a pianist. She teamed up with other islanders to create a music school, building it with recycled trash.

Digitally painted illustrations show the breeze carrying musical notes to Mahani, the spotlight shining on her as she performs in a packed concert hall, and a terrifying flood of plastic garbage encircling the island. An afterword reviews Mahani's career and her work with the nonprofit NGO Toki to create the Rapa Nui School of Music and the Arts. Bulleted lists share facts about the island, the "Mysterious Moai," the language of Rapanui, Earthships (buildings constructed with natural and recycled materials), plastic in the ocean, and the future of Rapa Nui.

The book was cowritten by Mahani and author Marni Fogelson. Illustrator Marta Alvarez Miguens also created the artwork for Dinosaur Lady (about Mary Anning) and Shark Lady (about Eugenie Clark), so you have probably seen her work before. I think it would be fun to pair this book with Playing at the Border: A Story of Yo-Yo Ma and discuss how artists can serve communities in different ways. You might wish to read the book with your students and then share this video about Mahani and the school; "In bringing the Song of Rapa Nui to the world, pianist brings music education home."

I read an ARC, but the book will be available Tuesday, April 4.  

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