Playing from the Heart

playing from the heart peter h reynolds

  • Playing from the Heart
  • written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
  • published by Candlewick Press (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I might as well get this out of the way right now: we’re big Peter Reynolds fans around these parts. You’d be hard pressed to find better books celebrating art, imagination, and creativity than his books The Dot and Ish.

And they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Reynolds has an entire library of beautiful books in which kids are allowed the freedom to express themselves and not suppress the art they have inside of them.

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So it was much excitement that we cracked open his latest book, Playing from the Heart – especially since both of the little Roarbots are learning to play piano.

The book centers on Raj who as a young boy decided to sit down at the family piano and “plunked and pushed the keys, delighted by every sound.” As Raj grows older, he gets better, and the piano (and its music) becomes a fixture in his house, much to the delight of his father.

Sadly, if you have ever played an instrument (or have kids who are learning), then you can probably guess that exhaustion eventually takes hold of Raj and the music becomes more of a chore than a joy.

About halfway through, the book takes a left turn. What began as a sweet story about one boy’s love of music becomes something so much more. And it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve read the book, the ending still reaches inside and makes me choke up.

As always, Reynolds’s art sparkles and brings the story to life in all the right ways. But coupled with his text, Playing from the Heart is elevated to one of those rare picture books that should be on every shelf and given away at every opportunity.

Ultimately, this is a beautifully touching book not only about music and creativity but also about family, love, and inspiration. It comes with our highest recommendation.

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(Disclosure: Candlewick Press provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.