Kali’s Song: About the Power of Art and Beauty over Violence

The kind of appreciation we hold for the beauty we find in music or art is close to the kind of appreciation we hold for nature. Similar chords are moved within us when we hear or see something that inspires us with its sound or appearance, be it a song we love or a particularly wonderful sunset. In Kali’s Song, author Jeanette Winter weaves ideas such as this in with lovely matte illustrations and an enrapturing storyline to create a book that will touch children and adults who read it alike.

kali's song

What Happens in Kali’s Song?

Thousands and thousands of years ago a young boy named Kali is on the brink of becoming a man. He watches his mother paint beautiful animals on the cave walls, until one day she tells him that soon he will be growing up, and he will hunt and kill animals just like the one’s she is painting. His father gives him a bow, and tells him he must practice for the hunt coming up that all boys will go on with the men soon.

Kali does as he is told. He travels a ways away and practices aiming and shooting his arrows all day. When he done and it is night, he sits down to think. As he does so, he idly plucks the string of his bow. A sound unlike any he has ever heard comes out. He places his lips on the bow experimentally while still plucking, and finds that he can play a wonderful song. He plays all through the night, and it is so lovely that even the stars come close to listen. As the months wear on Kali goes far away each day to play his bow. When he comes back and his father asks how his shooting practice went, he simply says “good.”

On the day of the big hunt, all the boys and men swarm out onto the plains to hunt. Up close, the animals are even more beautiful than Kali had imagined. He spots a herd of enormous wooly mammoth and he feels his song welling up inside of him. Forgetting about everything that is going on, he begins to play. When he opens his eyes the mammoth have come close to listen. Everything and everyone is silent. In a world where boys are expected to grow into men and hunt the animals of the plains, how will someone as gifted and kind-hearted as Kali fit in?

The Illustrations

Author/illustrator Jeanette Winter has published over 50 children’s books. I haven’t read even close to all of them, but I will say that Kali’s Song is so far one of my favorites-by a long shot. There’s the story, of course, but the illustrations are really lovely. Winter’s style is perfect for the tale, and the way she depicts the people and animals is unique, and the landscapes she draws are enchanting.

illustrations from kali's song

Overall, Is Kali’s Song a Good Book?

It is a great book. The lessons in it about the power of art and beauty over violence are great ones to pass onto children, and the setting and characters in this book are fantastic. This book made me realize there really aren’t enough ‘Ice Age’ children’s books out there, at least of the caliber of Kali’s Song. I love the time in which the whole thing takes place, and I love the creatures it involves, as well as the customs of a people that existed thousands of years before we did. If you’re considering getting this book, I’ll put my word in for it and say you should give it a shot.

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