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Review: Kali’s Song by Jeanette Winter

Kali’s Song
By Jeanette Winter
Schwartz & Wade (Random House)
ISBN: 9780375870224
Grades PreK-2
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Gentle gets a bad rap. Books that scream and shout get a lot of attention, but often it is a classic case of sound and fury signifying nothing. Jeanette Winter is a master of the calm and quiet – qualities that might not grab all the attention, but have a way of creating deep meaning. Kali’s Song is another example of this sort of storytelling. It’s gentle, but it’s powerful.

In the prehistoric age of the mammoth, it’s time Kali learns to hunt. His father teaches him how to use a bow and arrow, but Kali would rather use his bow as a musical instrument. When the day of the big hunt arrives, Kali shares his talent and amazes both man and beast.

Themes of community and peace are not subtle, but Winter communicates them nicely, as the character of Kali comes to his own realizations and shows peacefulness, rather than telling it.

Winter’s acrylic and pen and ink illustrations have a childlike quality that are accessible to young readers. All of the illustrations are atop handmade paper, providing an added layer of depth.

If you’re looking for a book that will incite some introspection and serve as a jumping off point for discussion, this is one for you. A quiet success.

Review copy from the publisher.

Also reviewed by City Book Review, Vegbooks.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Great minds and all that … I’ve got a post up today, too. Love this book (and your post).

  2. My children will surely love this book. The paintings are quite natural and the theme of harmony is always preferrable from my point of view.