The opening double page of ‘Potato Music’ celebrates music in both words and images. These appear in waves of glowing warm colours of red, orange, gold and yellow. Pete Groves’ acrylic art on canvas begs to be touched and examined closely. His art reflects the story’s initial warmth until war arrives. Then a dark shade of red descends on the neighbourhood, reflecting war’s impact on this family and their community.
Music is central to this family. ‘Mama says music helps to keep your soul warm.’ Pa says, ‘It helps to keep our dreams and hopes alive.’ The text has an ominous but not gloomy feel. Like several other picture books with a war setting, ‘Potato Music’ uses references to war in the text: ‘boots march past our window;’ ‘planes scream though the sky;’ and ‘faces in the street are angry and tired’ that do not show a direct impact on the people.
‘They can never take our music,’ Mama says, but one day the piano is gone. In its place is a sack of potatoes. The family can now eat. Showing their positive attitude, they continue to play, hear and dance to music. The text is lyrical and simple yet powerful and haunting. The story does not dwell on war, rather it offers a close-knit family managing their lives with a positive attitude. Featuring an open ending, such as here in ‘Potato Music,’ enables both viewers and listeners to experience war in ways appropriate for their maturity.
Pete Groves’ artwork features in many galleries around the world. Of his art, he says, ‘My paintings are a re-creation of observations and experiences of the everyday often creating my own visual story, leaving it to the viewer to create their story or a semblance of life.’ (Without Pier Gallery)