Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion

by Shannon Stocker (Author) Devon Holzwarth (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

A gorgeous and empowering picture book biography about Evelyn Glennie, a deaf woman, who became the first full-time solo percussionist in the world.

No. You can't, people said.

But Evelyn knew she could. She had found her own way to listen.

From the moment Evelyn Glennie heard her first note, music held her heart. She played the piano by ear at age eight, and the clarinet by age ten. But soon, the nerves in her ears began to deteriorate, and Evelyn was told that, as a deaf girl, she could never be a musician. What sounds Evelyn couldn't hear with her ears, though, she could feel resonate through her body as if she, herself, were a drum. And the music she created was extraordinary. Evelyn Glennie had learned how to listen in a new way. And soon, the world was listening too.

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Engaging text [and] vibrant illustrations, which effectively use color and pattern and movement to represent sound. An author's note provides more information about this remarkable musician's work.

Publishers Weekly

Having learned piano and clarinet before being diagnosed with degenerative hearing loss at age 10, Evelyn Glennie (b. 1965) was determined not to forsake music, which "rolled through the farm hills" of her native Scotland. Drawn by her school orchestra's percussion instruments, she starts lessons with a teacher who suggests that she remove her hearing aids and feel the drums' vibrations in her body: "every other sense intensified, as if Evelyn's whole body had become one giant ear," Stocker writes. Embracing the idea that "her brain just listened differently," Glennie fights to attend London's Royal Academy of Music--resulting in changed rules across British music schools--then goes on to record albums, win two Grammy Awards, and be awarded damehood by Queen Elizabeth II. Digitally enhanced watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations by Holzwarth emphasize Glennie's experience of finding, per an author's note, "other ways to listen," capturing the figure's barefoot performances via swirling, radiant colors that pour forth from her mallets. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)

Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 3-6--The life of deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie dances and swirls across the page in this vibrantly illustrated picture book biography that is perfect for elementary school readers learning about music and fascinating women. Glennie's story begins in Scotland, where she can play music by ear by the age of 10. Soon thereafter, she loses her hearing, and it seems as if she will lose access to music, too. A compassionate teacher, Ron Forbes, understands that Glennie feels the music with every part of her being, and she becomes an essential musician in any percussion section. This is more than a story of overcoming discrimination due to disability--Stocker captures something about the artist's need to be herself, regardless of abilities. Glennie is making music to this day. Lush brushstrokes, delicate character portraits, and warm colors make this a beautiful title to explore, and the ample text and sweet author's note ensures that Glennie's story will have an impact on readers. VERDICT An excellent addition to biography sections, especially for musical readers looking to feel the music and not just hear it.--Aryssa Damron

Copyright 2022 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

Does a fantastic job of making sound come alive on the page. . . . A fantastic book. Book Riot

This beautiful picture book biography celebrates the many ways we can listen—and the incredible creativity of this pioneering artist. —A Mighty Girl

"An intriguing, loving biography." Kirkus

"Evelyn Glennie not only challenges the traditional role of a percussionist but what it means to listen to music. . . . Lyrical text [and] expressive swirls of vibrant colors throughout evoke the sounds Evelyn's body feels and the beautiful music she creates in return." —Booklist
Shannon Stocker
Shannon Stocker is an author and proud word nerd. She lives with her husband, Greg, and her children, Cassidy and Tye, in Louisville, KY, where she molds words into picture books and songs all day. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. She is also the author of the picture book Can U Save the Day? and the 21st Century Junior Library: Together We Can: Pandemic early reader series.

Devon Holzwarth grew up in Panama with the jungle as her garden and parrots and iguanas as pets. Devon earned her BFA in 2000 from the Rhode Island School of Design, focusing on screen printing and painting. Childhood memories and her collection of vintage children's books strongly inspire her work. She currently lives in Aachen, Germany, with her husband, two kids, and beloved old hound dog.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Dial Books
Publication date
April 20, 2022
BISAC categories
JNF007040 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Music
JNF053180 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Social Topics | Special Needs
JNF036090 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Music | Instruments
Library of Congress categories
Picture books
Drummers (Musicians)
Glennie, Evelyn
Deaf musicians

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