Cover image for Manuelo the playing mantis
Title:
Manuelo the playing mantis
Author:
Freeman, Don, 1908-1978.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, [2004]

©2004
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Summary:
A praying mantis who longs to make music gets help from a spider named Debby Webster.
Language:
English
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 4.4 0.5 77410.
ISBN:
9780670036844

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Summary

Summary

When Don Freeman died in 1978, he left behind illustrations and a finished manuscript for a story that was close to his heart. Freeman himself was a professional trumpeter and he was working on the story of a creature who loved music—but couldn’t make any himself.

Manuelo is a praying mantis who spends summer evenings listening raptly to outdoor concerts. How he longs to join in! But though he tries to make a flute from a cattail, a horn from a trumpet flower, and a harp from twigs, nothing seems to work. But then Manuelo makes a friend who shows him how to create a cello . . . and in doing so opens the door to Manuelo’s heart’s desire.


Author Notes

Don Freeman was born in San Diego, California, in 1908. At an early age, he received a trumpet as a gift from his father. He practiced obsessively and eventually joined a California dance band. After graduating from high school, he ventured to New York City to study art under the tutelage of Joan Sloan and Harry Wickey at the Art Students' League. He managed to support himself throughout his schooling by playing his trumpet evenings, in nightclubs and at weddings.

Gradually, he eased into making a living sketching impressions of Broadway shows for The New York Times and The Herald Tribune . This shift was helped along, in no small part, by a rather heartbreaking incident: he lost his trumpet. One evening, he was so engrossed in sketching people on the subway, he simply forgot it was sitting on the seat beside him. This new career turned out to be a near-perfect fit for Don, though, as he had always loved the theater.

He was introduced to the world of children's literature when William Saroyan asked him to illustrate several books. Soon after, he began to write and illustrate his own books, a career he settled into comfortably and happily. Through his writing, he was able to create his own theater: "I love the flow of turning the pages, the suspense of what's next. Ideas just come at me and after me. It's all so natural. I work all the time, long into the night, and it's such a pleasure. I don't know when the time ends. I've never been happier in my life!"

Don died in 1978, after a long and successful career. He created many beloved characters in his lifetime, perhaps the most beloved among them a stuffed, overall-wearing bear named Corduroy.

Don Freeman was the author and illustrator of many popular books for children, including Corduroy , A Pocket for Corduroy , and the Caldecott Honor Book Fly High, Fly Low .


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

K-Gr. 2. Manuelo, a praying mantis, loves to listen to the outdoor concerts near the meadow where he lives. Though he doesn't have a way of making music with his body, like crickets or katydids, he tries to make a flute from a cattail and a horn from a trumpet flower--unsuccessfully. A cheerful spider offers to help and sends Manuelo to find half a walnut shell and a curlicued stick. She spins strings for him, and Manuelo makes a cello with a bluebird feather for a bow. Freeman died in 1978, but most of the illustrations here are his; several others were finished from his sketches by Jody Wheeler. The art features delicate lines, soft, bright colors, and a certain whimsy: it's hard not to be charmed by the sight of the mantis playing for an audience of frogs and insects. Friends of Corduroy will want to meet Manuelo, too. --GraceAnne DeCandido Copyright 2004 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this posthumously published work (the publisher notes in its catalogue that Freeman "left behind illustrations and a finished manuscript" for the story), the creator of Corduroy presents a gentle tale of determination and friendship. A music-loving praying mantis listens appreciatively to an orchestra performing on an outdoor stage. Longing to become a musician himself, Manuelo is disappointed to discover that he makes no sound when he rubs his legs against his wings ("the way crickets and grasshoppers and katydids do whenever they sing") and sets out to find an instrument to play. He attempts to fashion a flute from a hollow cattail, blow into a trumpet flower and form a harp from a "twisty twig" and cobweb strands-all to no avail. An enterprising spider comes to Manuelo's rescue, suggesting that together they might make a cello (but insists, "first of all you must promise not to eat me!"), and they accomplish their mission. A watercolor illustration in twilight shades shows the previous skeptics converted, as grasshoppers and frogs gather to watch the praying mantis who is now a playing mantis, using a bluebird's feather as a bow on his homemade cello. The audience members contribute their own music to create a "glorious insect symphony." Freeman's wispy, occasionally unfinished-looking art ably animates this breezily written story with an upbeat ending. Ages 3-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 4-Though Freeman died in 1978, his love for storytelling and, in particular, his love for music live on through this previously unpublished tale of determination personified in the character of a praying mantis. The lonely insect longs to join other creatures in making music, but lacks the chirp of the crickets or the croak of the frogs. He also fails at building his own instruments, as a reed made into a flute makes no noise, the flower of a trumpet vine does not blow, and his "snippy" claws break the strings of a twig-and-cobweb harp. Finally, an intelligent and observant spider agrees to help him, if he promises not to eat her for dinner. An artistic collaboration is born as Debby Webster spins web and other objects into an instrument that will bring music into Manuelo's life. The rich pastel illustrations present the world of the resolute Manuelo as the "playing mantis" introduces various instruments to readers. With his stick-thin limbs, the insect makes a graceful figure as he plays his homemade cello. The tiny white spider perfectly reflects the delicate nature of the web she spins. With characters that are empathetic and intrepid, this story makes a good model for encouraging youngsters to persevere when they encounter difficulties. A fine choice for all libraries, this book will be of special interest to young musicians.-Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.