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The Children's Bookshelf: The Girl Who Heard the Music - January 14, 2024

THE GIRL WHO HEARD THE MUSIC written by Marni Fogelson with Mahani Teave and illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns is a captivating story about a young girl by the name of Mahani who lives on Rapa Nui, a remote island known as Easter Island, and who develops into a highly- praised professional pianist!

This is a true story that discusses not only Mahani’s musical career that included concerts in six nations but also includes a discussion of the over 800 thirteen-foot- tall statues of the faces of ancestors carved out of volcanic rock that grace the island!

Many thousands of people came to the island to see the captivating artwork. However, with more visitors came more trash. It was then that the young pianist decided to devote time and energy to using the trash in useful ways such as by using it to build the walls of a new music school. They used “12 tons of cardboard, 40,000 aluminum cans, 25,000 glass bottles, 20,000 plastic bottles and 2,500 tires.”

The illustrations throughout this gorgeous picture book are rich in colors and smiling faces. The double spread of Mahani in concert is nicely put forth as she plays elegantly with a circle of flowers in her hair. And the pictures of the Moai’s ancient faces are perfect. The end papers present a marvelous map of Rapa Nui.

The Girl Who Heard the Music is a beautifully told story for readers 4-8 years of age that also speaks to us all. (Sourcebooks Kids, 2023).

The Children’s Bookshelf is a production of WCMU. Links to the podcast and the Activity Questions can be found at Children’s Bookshelf dot org.

Activity Questions for The Girl Who Heard the Music

Older children: Study the book and the book’s back materials and find the answers to the following questions about Rapa Nui and the Moai:

How heavy is the average Moai? How many Moai are on Rapa Nui? How tall is the average Moai? What material is the Moai made of? How did Rapa Nui get its name of Easter Island? How many tourists visit Rapa Nui each year? What do the visitors bring with them?

Younger children: Study the illustrations of the volunteers who are constructing the walls of the new Music School by using trash!

Are they happy? Are they determined? How many aluminum cans did they use? How many plastic bottles did they use? And how many old tires did they use? Look at their faces as they work? If they were to sing a song while building the wall, what song would they be singing? Now, join them—remember it can be a song you know, or a song you make up!


Sue Ann Martin is professor emerita of Communication and Dramatic Arts and the founding and past Dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts at Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. She first became interested in children’s literature when she wrote her PhD thesis on the oral characteristics of the Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. Her PhD is in Speech and Interpretation with a cognate in Early Childhood Education. She went on to review children’s books for the Detroit Free Press, write three popular resource books for teachers regarding children’s books and the creative process. She also reviewed newly-published books for Arts Almanac specials on WCMU Public Radio. Her 2002 children’s books special for WCMU won a Merit Award in Special Interest Programming from the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.