Passing Down the Music

Passing the Music Down

illus­tra­tor, Bar­ry Root
pub­lish­er, Can­dlewick Press

A warm­heart­ed ode to an Amer­i­can musi­cal tra­di­tion and to gen­er­a­tional ties, told in lyri­cal free verse with atmos­pher­ic illustrations.

A young boy trav­els to the hills of Appalachia to meet the old-time fid­dle play­er whose music he has admired, and so sparks a friend­ship that will forge a bond between gen­er­a­tions. The boy devel­ops under the man’s care and instruc­tion, just as seedlings grow with spring rain and sum­mer sun. From play­ing on the front porch to per­form­ing at folk fes­ti­vals, the two car­ry on the tra­di­tion of pass­ing the music down. This touch­ing, lyri­cal sto­ry, inspired by the lives of renowned fid­dlers Melvin Wine and Jake Krack, includes an author’s note and sug­gest­ed resources for learn­ing about the musi­cians and the music they love.

illustration Passing the Music Down
Pass­ing the Music Down. Text copy­right © 2011 by Sarah Sul­li­van. Illus­tra­tions copy­right © 2011 by Bar­ry Root. Repro­duced by per­mis­sion of the pub­lish­er, Can­dlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


Pass­ing the Music Down Book­mark

Pass­ing the Music Down Teacher’s Guide

Fig­u­ra­tive Lan­guage: a Mini-Lesson

Smith­son­ian Folk­ways record­ing com­piled by Jake Krack

Jake Krack­’s IMDB page

West Vir­ginia Music Hall of Fame

Inter­view with Thomas Amor­iel­lo, Jr., Music in a Min­uet, the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion for Music Edu­ca­tion blog

Fid­dlin’, a doc­u­men­tary about the Galax Old Time Fid­dler’s Con­ven­tion, promi­nent­ly fea­tur­ing Jake Krack play­ing through­out the entire film, is stream­ing on Ama­zon Prime. Watch the trail­er on YouTube. Here’s an arti­cle about the doc­u­men­tary in Rolling Stone.

Jake Krack’s first-place-win­ning per­for­mance at Galax Old-Time Fiddler’s Con­ven­tion, August 4, 2009.

Awards & Recognition

  • Bank Street Col­lege Best Chil­dren’s Books 2012
  • Notable Chil­dren’s Book in the Lan­guage Arts (NCTE) 2012
  • West Vir­ginia Children’s Choice Book Award nominee


“a love­ly intro­duc­tion to tra­di­tion­al music.” (Horn Book)

“evoca­tive descrip­tive detail … brings the scenes to vivid life.” (Bul­letin of the Cen­ter for Chil­dren’s Books)

“with a fid­dler’s rhythm … this cel­e­bra­to­ry pic­ture book hon­ors the lives of two famous folk musi­cians and the bond between them.” (Book­list)

“music-mak­ing builds bridges across gen­er­a­tions.” (Chica­go Tri­bune)

“part of musi­cal his­to­ry.” (New York Times)

“lilt­ing text.” (Cleve­land Plain Deal­er)

“a love­ly, res­o­nant offer­ing.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“It is love­ly, and a won­der­ful trib­ute to a south­ern tra­di­tion.” (Wan­da Jew­ell, South­ern Inde­pen­dent Book­sellers Alliance)

“Told in free verse, this pic­ture book would be a good accom­pa­ni­ment to music-appre­ci­a­tion lessons focused on Amer­i­can roots music.” (School Library Jour­nal)

“Sul­li­van cap­tures the sound of the ‘old time’ music in her rhyth­mic verse, which just cries out to be read aloud… A beau­ti­ful­ly craft­ed pic­ture book” (NSW Asso­ci­a­tion for Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed Children.)

Passing the Music Down

pub­lish­er, Can­dlewick Press

Buy the Book