Passing the Music Down

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.

two-page spread from 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 and 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
illustrated by Barry Root
published by Candlewick Press, 2011
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