Review - Songs in the Shade of the Olive Tree

We’ve recently been exploring Africa here in the {KID} independent household; The animals, the people, the land, and the music. The folks from The Secret Mountain have provided the soundtrack to our new discoveries, with their storybook and CD packs, Songs from the Baobab and Songs in the Shade of the Olive Tree.

Songs in the Shade of the Olive Tree

Of course, music this inspiring is just too good to keep to myself, so I sent out a copy of Songs in the Shade of the Olive Tree to Alice Garrick, KID independent reader and Australian indie musician. Today I’d like to share her review. Take it away Alice…

Reading Songs in the Shade of the Olive Tree

When I presented my kids with the book ‘Songs in the Shade of the Olive Tree’ they were delighted- we’re a family of book and music lovers. I’m a musician and make music for children and my three kids, two girls 8 and 5 and my little boy who is 2, love to listen to different sorts of music. My two girls were drawn to the pictures in the book and immediately cuddled up on the couch to read the rhymes together.

The pictures in the book are evocative of open skies and warm, wide open country with room to move. The illustrations beautifully capture the movement and mood of play and nursery rhymes with colours and textures while leaving the detail sparse to inspire imagination. The pictures show children, as well as babies and mothers, moving, dancing with each other and swirling around, and the movement is captured so well it makes you want to dance. Once my girls got to the end of the book and discovered the CD we had to put it on right away.

Dancing to Songs in the Shade of the Olive Tree

My girls had read the rhymes and found them so different to the rhymes they were used to and weren’t sure what they thought. As soon as the music went on and they heard how the rhymes were meant to be spoken and sung in their original language, with the music behind them and the distinctive sounds of the indigenous instruments, the rhymes suddenly became so much more accessible. As soon as the music started, all three of my children were up and dancing, swirling and holding hands like the children in the pictures.

At the back of the book is a description of each song and its cultural context. With the accompaniment of these insights into the cultural background of the music the initially strange rhymes, such as number 10, ‘My bicycle, my bicycle, has already had lunch’ take on a new meaning- a surrealistic, nonsense sentence which is fun because of the way the rhymes flow in their original language, especially with the suggested actions of laying on your back and peddling your feet in the air.

We love this book and CD. A wonderful snapshot and introduction to ancient cultures, traditional rhymes and everyday life with flair, exuberance, and irresistible urgings to swirl, twirl, shimmy and shake and get caught up in the fantastic music.

Check out the full collection from The Secret Mountain and party your way around the world!

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