It’s always a pleasure when a fellow teaching friend writes and publishes a book. I am all for celebrating on their behalf. So I was happy to learn that Gaetan Pappalardo (part of the National Writing Project network and a regular contributor to Edutopia, and whose online motto is teach.write.rock) had finally gotten his children’s novel — Louie Licks and the Wicked Snakes: Battleaxe — out for sale. Gaetan writes a lot of great pieces about the connections between music and writing, and how to use that interest in music in the classroom. His short (self-published, I believe) novel builds on that idea of music having powers beyond what we hear, but the book does it with humor, adventure and even some wacky science fiction built in.
I’ll admit: I am a sucker for stories that use music as the anchor. Here, the narrator — Louie Licks, an elementary student whose fame with his guitar is already legendary (if you go to his school) — shares with us his incredible adventure when his electric guitar gets stolen right before a gig at a breakfast at his school. The thief (disguised first as a milkman) is trying to tap the power of the guitar (you’ll have to read the book to understand what that is all about), and it is up to Louie and his drummer friend, Grady (my brutha!), to save the day by saving the school … and possibly the world.
Gaetan writes with flare (and the illustrations by Amy English are cute), and the voice of his young protagonist comes through loud and clear. I particularly liked his interactions with his little brother, whom Louie has nicknamed “Grunge.” The oddest character is Louie’s dead grandmother, who arrives at opportune moments to help Louie out of jams. (The guitar was hers before it was Louie’s.) There is also an entire part of the story that revolves around farting, so you know the boys in class will be chuckling over the passing of gas.
A bonus is that Gaetan, who is a musician himself, has set up a website where Louie and his bandmates have recorded some of their music. Take a listen to Louie Licks and the Wicked Snakes.
Peace (in the power of music),