“A lovely reminder to find inspiration in the seemingly mundane and insignificant.”
Lenny is a music composer living in the heart of Paris. One night, he sits down to begin a symphony but remains stumped for hour after hour until, noticing the sound of his cat Pipo lapping milk from a bowl, he is inspired to search for the symphony around him. Repeating the phrase “It’s not a symphony, but it feels like music,” Lenny draws inspiration first from the sounds inside his apartment (like a leaking sink), then from the sounds of the the great outdoors, both man-made and natural (like a jogger running, squirrels cracking nuts, and the squeaky wheels of a trolley), until he exclaims, “Now this feels like a symphony!” Created in ink and watercolor and featuring iconic Parisian elements and architecture, the illustrations’ blend of reality and style mirror the book’s message about finding and creating art from everyday moments in a blend of color and experience. Thomas’s depiction of Lenny’s facial expressions is skillfully nuanced, particularly in showing the familiar look of an artist straining to capture a fleeting, inspiring moment. Pulling together the scattered notes hastily scrawled by Lenny to capture each sound that inspires him, the story culminates in a full page of sheet music—composed by Thomas’s Aunt Anne—that gives readers a sense of the true magnitude of what Lenny has accomplished.
Full of joy and discovery, Louis Thomas’ The Music of Life is a simple, melodious picture book about finding big inspiration and beauty in the smallest of details.
At night when everyone else is asleep, one artist sits awake–pencil in hand, stuck. Lenny is a composer, but this evening, no music floats from his head.
Then as night breaks into dawn, Lenny’s cat, Pipo, begins lapping milk. Lick lick lick. Birds yawn awake, singing in the trees. Tweet tweet! A bike bell tings on the street below. Suddenly, Lenny notices a rhythm to the world around him. He pulls on his coat and walks through the city to write down every sound he can find. Lenny listens to a gardener, a jogger, a dogwalker, and more neighborhood characters.
Finally, the morning’s sounds culminate in a sun-dappled symphony that Lenny conducts in the center of the park.
Lenny is inspired by the sounds all around him. Take a minute and listen to what sounds you can hear right now that you may not have noticed before. Do they sound like music?
The story never specifically says where it is set, but it is certainly set in a particular city. Read the book again, and look for clues as to what city Lenny lives in. Can you discover what it is?
At the very front of the book, there is a little note from the author that says: “The author thanks his aunt Anne Thomas who wrote the sheet music for Lenny’s symphony. And Leonard Bernstein, who never ceased to inspire him.” Do you know who Leonard Bernstein is? With an adult’s help, find some of his music and listen to it.
Louis Thomas graduated from Gobelins/Paris and Calarts/Los Angeles in 2012. After working in animation studios in California, he moved to France where he lives with his cat Pipo in his art studio between the Pantheon and the Luxembourg Garden. He is the author/illustrator of the book HUG IT OUT. Visit him at louist.blogspot.com and on Instagram @Louis_Thomas_Draw.
To Kirsten, who helps me write my own life symphony.