Review of Pokko and the Drum

Pokko and the Drum
by Matthew Forsythe; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Wiseman/Simon    64 pp.
10/19    978-1-4814-8039-0    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-8040-6    $10.99

“The biggest mistake Pokko’s parents ever made was giving her a drum,” begins this story about a young frog musician’s path to creative fulfillment, benevolent (mostly) leadership, and satisfying self-expression. After that attention-grabbing opening line, the well-paced text builds anticipatory humor by backing up to describe earlier gifts Pokko’s parents regretted: a slingshot, a llama, and a balloon, all shown in uncluttered spreads featuring the game but poker-faced Pokko. Then comes the drum: Pokko’s face lights up (for a second) and she reaches toward her instrument, her now-constant companion. She practices inside the house; her parents send her out. She goes to the forest, where her playing attracts a banjo-strumming raccoon, a trumpet-blowing rabbit, and more; soon she’s trailed by a parade of like-minded, music-making creatures (minus the rabbit, who gets eaten by a wolf: “No more eating band members or you’re out of the band,” deadpans Pokko). There are lots of visual nods and references in Forsythe’s textured, painterly watercolor, gouache, and colored-pencil illustrations — Rousseau, Sendak, Lobel, Ungerer, Keats, Klassen — but, like his amphibian protagonist, this idiosyncratic author/illustrator/animator (The Brilliant Deep, rev. 7/18; Warning: Do Not Open This Book!; the Adventure Time television series) marches to his own beat.

From the January/February 2020 Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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