Sam and
The Jungle Band

written by DJ Corchin
illustrated by Dan Dougherty

DJ Corchin's Sam and The Jungle Band
illustrated by Dan Dougherty

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 4-8

Expanding musical the jungle!

Sam plays guitar. Oh, and Sam is a monkey.

The thing is, Sam wants to be more than a niche performer. Sure, it's great playing I'm a Funky Monkey for gorillas, orangutans, baboons and his fellow chimps, but it sure would be nice if some non-simians were to appreciate his licks.

But they don't. And Sam wonders why.

And that's what I like about Sam: he assumes there's a reason he's not catching on with those other than his own. And he's willing to look at himself, when a more modern choice might be to blame his producer, his publicist or his promoter.

On Twitter.

So Sam sets out with his guitar (in a banana-shaped case) to find out what (and who) else is out there, musically. He meets

  • An elephant drummer named Lemon
  • A boa constrictor electric bass player named Blake
  • A piano-playing tarsier who goes by "The Professor"
  • A conga-playing macaw named Kit, and
  • A tiger guitarist named Nessa

These six form a band. Do they take it on the road?

Not right away. They start playing together, and they actually struggle - as individuals with their own ideas and influences are wont to do. They even bicker. But eventually they meld their talents and find a sound that works for all of well as the jungle citizenry at large.

Review - Sam and The Jungle Band

Author Corchin and illustrator Dougherty come together again (they also did You Got a Boogie, reviewed on this site) for a simple but gorgeous story that is clearly richer for the musical background both men have.

The music world (I hear it's a jungle out there) turns out to be a wonderful venue in which to convey all the positive messages this book puts forward but that Corchin is too artful to state outright - messages like stretch, evolve, and value the contributions of others. Not to mention seek friends and colleagues who don't necessarily look like you.

Dougherty's graphic novel style (think strong lines and dramatic colors) looks great stretching from edge to edge on Sam and the Jungle Band's oversized pages. The animals couldn't look hipper in their jazz-styled duds, and the band's stagehands get some amusing moments in non-speaking roles.

If the book has a failing it's that it's a bit too upbeat; Sam never has any real low moments, and the band's struggles are overcome in the course of just a few uneventful sentences. The result: the book is a bit low on drama. The highs would feel higher if there had been more lows.

It's doubtful, though, that kids will even notice.

The final page of Sam and The Jungle Band promises a "World Tour" to come, and (on this day in August, 2011) I have it on good authority that there will be some actual music from the band in the not-so-distant future. Join Sam and the band and do the Funky Monkey!

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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