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[Saturday Reads] Be Like Pokko: Drum Like A Girl And Lead The Band ‘Out Of The Park’

"Pokko And The Drum" by Matthew Forsythe.


Myra here.

Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

While this recently-published picturebook is technically not fantastical – it does portray a family of frogs, with Pokko our girl froglet, playing the drum. It is a stretch, but within the realms of acceptability.

Pokko And The Drum (Amazon | Book Depository)

Written and Illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Published by Simon Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books (2019)
ISBN: 1481480391 (ISBN13: 9781481480390). Borrowed via NLB Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.

Pokko was given a drum by her parents. From the moment she started drumming that drum, her father was convinced that they have made a terrible mistake.

Father seems to be the Worrywart of the family – and the chef, by the way, which I absolutely loved and noticed immediately. The mother has her nose buried in a book throughout the story, eternally distracted, riveted by whatever she is reading – which I also adored. Pokko, on the other hand, has found her source of constant joy: she drums and drums and drums – to the annoyance of hypertensive, type-A froglet Father, who finally requested Pokko to play her drum outdoors, please, but to do so unobtrusively because “we don’t like drawing attention to ourselves.”

As Pokko found herself outdoors, she started drumming … softly at first, then loudly, until she is joined by another sound, then another, and yet another – until a whole band is formed. My favourite, though, is when the Wolf joined and started eating one of the band members.

Pokko, our persistent and (apparently) talented female frog looked the Wolf in the face, articulated her displeasure directly, and basically stated that she is having none of this shenanigan, or he’s out. Simple, self-assured, decisive. No wonder Pokko found herself being the unwitting leader of a makeshift forest band, as various creatures gravitate towards the lovely music our ‘unobtrusive’ Pokko plays as she continues to do what she does best.

Critics or adults can wax lyrical about this being a feminist book – but I prefer to regard it as a subtle portrayal of a young girl froglet who has a quiet understanding of her worth, and is unafraid to share it with the world – even if it means drawing attention to herself.’

I read this book not just once, not just twice, but multiple times. Each reading has made me like it even more. The entire book is a mentor text for captivating first lines, pacing, build-up, distinct characterization, soft artwork conveying a world of emotions in a line, and the sheer joy of storytelling done in a distilled and powerful manner. Definitely one of my favourite picturebook reads this year.

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Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

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