Pros:gorgeous paintings, sweet story
Cons:a few moments could be a bit scary for younger kids
The Bottom Line: "Boom pum pum boom pum / Boom pum pum boom boom / Boom pat pat boom pat / Boom pat pat boom tat."
One of the most beloved stories in the Christmas canon is The Little Drummer Boy, a tale that has spawned many similar stories about those who have little to give but are rewarded for their humble offerings. I tend to place stories under the category of this song, though it wasn’t the first of its kind. An early example is The Clown of God, a centuries-old French tale, and far earlier still is the Biblical account of the widow’s mite. Nonetheless, when I encounter this type of tale, my first thought is “Drummer Boy”.
Recommend this product?
When I saw the title Drummer Boy, I figured that this picture book by Loren Long was simply a direct adaptation of The Little Drummer Boy. But a glance at the cover revealed that this story would be a little different. The “boy” in question is a toy, a stalwart little toy drummer with a red coat, blue pants, black shoes, a blue and yellow hat, silver buttons, yellow epaulets, a black belt and, of course, a little green and yellow drum. He’s a snazzy-looking toy, and he sounds even better than he looks, or so we are given to understand by the reactions others have to him.
In this tender story, the titular drummer is the beloved possession of a young boy. One day, he is accidentally tossed in the trash and winds up at the garbage dump, the first step in a long journey that will allow him to spread his song all over the city. In some ways, this reminds me of Toy Story, though the drummer handles his predicament with far more grace than Woody.
He’s all alone, but wherever he goes, he earns the respect of strangers who are mesmerized by his music. A rat hears the gentle beat and ceases its snarling. The soft tapping lulls hungry owl chicks to sleep. He plays for audiences big and small, at one point treating the city at large to his march as he stands atop a bell tower. Throughout his entire ordeal, he is content, cheerfully sharing beauty with whoever is willing to listen.
Drummer Boy is the first book that Long wrote, though he previously illustrated others. While the story is wonderfully sweet, it’s the soft acrylic paintings that really capture the imagination, with expansive two-page spreads capturing the beauty of the winter landscape and close-ups on faces transfigured by the drummer boy’s profoundly moving solo. This is not a retelling of that classic song, but Long does not neglect the birth of Christ; the book gently concludes with the drummer performing yet again, this time in a Nativity set.
Drummer Boy isn’t quite the story I expected, but it is thoroughly endearing, one of the most charming Christmas books I’ve encountered in the last couple of years. Invite this little fellow into your home, and I predict that you too will be enchanted.
This review is an entry in the Lean-n-Mean Write-Off VIII. Sometimes, less really can be more! It's also an entry in Chelledun's "Get Those Holiday Reviews Out" Write-Off. Let's get into the Christmas spirit!
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