Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dance to the Beat of Your Own... Tuba?

Read It. Move It. Share It. 
This month I'm recommending the picture book Tuba Lessons for independent dance educator Maria Hanley to incorporate into her creative movement classes in New York City. A while back, Maria told me she was interested in trying out wordless or nearly wordless picture books in class, and I thought Tuba Lessons might be a good one to start with. After reading more about the book below, head over to Maria's blog to see how she used it with her young dancers.

Tuba Lessons, by T. C. Bartlett and Monique Felix, is the fanciful story of a young boy's adventures on his way to music class. "Now, don't dillydally in the woods, young man, or you'll be late for your tuba lesson," his mother calls out, as the boy heads out for class carrying his large golden tuba.

From this point on, the illustrations take over as the boy steps into his own little world in the woods. I'm not sure if it's a real world, an imaginary world, or a dream world, but it's a wonderful world. 

In this new world, a traditional musical staff (made up of five parallel lines and the four spaces in between) is used as a walking path one minute and turns into a tree the next. As the boy plays his tuba and starts attracting some forest animals, the lines of the staff curve and bend along with the music emanating from the tuba, and different sizes and shapes of musical notes bounce off the pages. So even though this is a nearly wordless picture book, Tuba Lessons is full of sound and movement--all captured by the illustrations alone.

From my description, Tuba Lessons probably sounds like a dreamy, upbeat kind of book, which it is. But it also contains a bit of conflict. Just as the young boy and his animal friends are finding their musical groove, a large brown bear roars onto the scene, threatening to spoil the party. The boy must figure out a way to befriend the bear, and as you might have guessed, he uses his tuba to do so. 

I found out that T. C. Bartlett actually envisioned a lion instead of a bear in the story when he came up with the concept for the book. You can read more about this interesting story, as well as see some of Bartlett's artwork of his original concept, here. You can also see all the various covers for the book, which was first issued in 1997, but then reissued as a paperback in 2004 and in a revised hardcover format in 2009. 

I'm so curious to see how Maria used this book in her creative movement classes. I have imagined her having the class act out the story with one dancer as the boy, one as the bear, and the rest of the dancers as the other forest animals. But I also think it would be fun to just read the story, play some tuba music, and see how the kids react to the music. If you're also curious to see what Maria did, click here!


  1. I always love how you summarize books. And you always see so many more details than I do. Next time I use this book, I am going to try out music note shapes. what an interesting concept. Thank you for suggesting this and giving me a challenge! :)

  2. Thanks, Brooke. It is a fun book!

  3. Kerry, I love the sound of this book and the whole concept of your colleague using it in her dance class. Thanks very much for sharing it today.

    1. Going through my blog and realized I never responded to you -- and it was years ago! Thanks, and hope you are doing well!!

  4. Great story, I wish you every success!


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