by Peter H. Reynolds
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 4.2
3 out of 5 stars
Playing from the Heart features a young boy who discovers the piano and begins to play music he makes up. He plays only because he loves to make music and it brings him joy. His father sees his love and interest in the piano, and hires a teacher to “nurture Raj’s talent.” Reynolds has a wonderful spread where the boy learns to read written music and the bars on the page remind him of zoo animals in their cages “waiting to escape.”
After years, the art and joy that the boy used to love to create has left not only his piano playing but his life, and we see the boy age and become another boring adult.
A good story about art and creativity that is reminiscent of The Dot and Sky Color, Reynolds has crafted a message about creating music for joy and beauty, and how sometimes even well-meaning adults can turn it into more of a drudgery. In the author’s bio on the back cover flap, Reynolds says, “I wanted to celebrate the natural energy and fearlessness that children are born with and encourage all of us, as we learn rules and techniques, not to forget that original joy.”
As an adult, I believe this is a wonderful message that is a good reminder for those who work with or raise children, but I am not sure that the message will mean as much to children reading the story on their own. Playing from the Heart could be used as an introduction to conversations with either adults or children about never getting bogged down in the idea of perfecting an art, but remembering why you loved it to start with.