Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Ukulele Hayley

Ukulele Hayley

Judy Cox
Illustrator:  Amanada Haley 
For ages 8 to 10
Holiday House, 2013   ISBN: 978-0823431908

Hayley is now a third grader and though she grew over the summer, she is still smaller than everyone else in her class. The problem with being small is that everyone thinks that you are too small to do things that matter. All her life Hayley has been too small (or too young) to do many of the things that she wants to do, and she is rather fed up with the situation.

   Soon after the new school year begins, Hayley meets the new music teacher. Mr. Yaeger is a young and energetic man who tells Hayley and her classmates that there is going to be a talent show at the school in early December. Hayley wants to participate but she does not really have a talent that would work for a talent show. Once again Hayley feels very small and very unimportant. Then Hayley finds and buys a ukulele at a yard sale. Her father tells Hayley about Great-great Aunt Ruby who, despite the fact that she was disabled by polio, was a gifted ukulele player who performed with a music group in the 1920’s. Hayley decides that she will play her ukulele in the talent show and she sets about learning how to play the little instrument.

   Haley works very hard, practicing at every opportunity, and slowly but surely she makes progress. In fact she does so well that other children start to get interested in the learning how to play the ukulele and Haley starts teaching them what she knows. The ukulele fever spreads and it soon becomes clear that creating music has become important to all kinds of children in Hayley’s school. Then something truly dreadful happens. The music program is cut from the school, which means that Hayley’s ukulele group will have no place to learn and to practice. Hayley has to decide if she is willing to let this happen.

   In this delightful chapter book young readers will meet a little girl who takes on a new challenge, determined to learn a skill that she really wants to claim as her own. It is interesting to see how Hayley’s school mates gravitate to the ukulele and how they come to appreciate that making music together is a priceless thing; so priceless in fact that they are willing to fight for the music program that they all care about so much. As they read readers will also see how music unites children who are otherwise very different.