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Mole Music

Last updated Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Author: David McPhail
Date of Publication: 1999
ISBN: 0805028196
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2009

Synopsis: In this tender-hearted picture book, McPhail (Tinker and Tom and the Star Baby) goes underground, literally, explore the restorative powers of music. Mole feels something is missing from his life, which consists of digging tunnels all day and kicking back in front of the TV in his subterranean home each evening. One night Mole watches a man playing the violin on television ("He made the most beautiful music Mole had ever heard") and resolves to obtain his own violin and learn to play it. His initial attempts with instrument in hand could hardly be called music, but with great determination and practice, Mole soon coaxes gorgeous sounds from the strings. As Mole wonders what effect his music might have on an audience, McPhail cleverly depicts the melodious notes floating up through the ground to appreciative listeners and transforming the world into a more peaceful place. The illustrations chart the aspiring musician's progress through the seasons, as the sapling above his rooftop flourishes on a steady diet of his euphonious tunes. The brief, simply phrased text brims with big ideas that may inspire many a young musician or artist. McPhail's delicate watercolor-and-ink paintings work seamlessly in tandem with the words to deliver a truly resonant message: that music can change the world.

Note to readers:
•  While reading, point out the progression of the growth of the oak tree.
•  Vocabulary: Music scale, screech

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is a mole?
•  What is the mole playing?
•  Where do moles live?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What is growing above the mole's home?
•  How did the acorn get there?
•  Have you ever ordered anything delivered by mail? How long did it take to arrive?
•  Have you every played an instrument?
•  How long do you think it takes to learn to play an instrument?
•  How did the mole get better at playing the violin?
•  How does the mole affect the growth of the tree?

Craft ideas:
•  Have volunteers bring in old shoeboxes, plastic trays, etc. and then take rubber bands and stretch them across the shoebox to create an “instrument.”
•  Using construction paper, trace and cut out a violin. Use string or yarn to create "strings" on the violin.
•  Make a miner’s helmet like the one the mole is wearing. The hat can be decorated with musical notes, etc. Cut a wide band to fit around the student's head. Then cut out a large yellow circle, so it can be the light on the helmet.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!