The Core Themes
I recently published the second book in The Strumming Seahorse series. Ukulele Practice Time: A Strumming Seahorse Story follows Sammy on another adventure as he learns more about how to play the ukulele. This time, he struggles with learning a song because he doesn’t know how to play all the notes. He learns about chords and how to play them from Peter the Pufferfish, an area music teacher in the ocean.
Sammy has supportive friends who cheer him on along the way after taking notice of his hard work. He shares his music with all his ocean friends by the end of the story and their hearts are happy!
This story underscores the core themes of practice, patience, perseverance, and sharing music with others. I believe these themes are so important for young musicians or even young people who do not play the ukulele yet. These are themes that go beyond the instrument and help build character and confidence.
My Creative Process
I felt inspired to create this story about Sammy so that children could see that learning something new, like how to play songs on the ukulele, takes time and practice. It can seem frustrating when we can’t make our hands work in a certain way, but it just takes some practice. I remember how nice it was to have supportive friends cheering me on when I learned how to play the ukulele, and I wanted to incorporate that into this story.
I wrote Ukulele Practice Time as I made thumbnail sketches for the illustrations. In fact, I wrote each of the four stories for this series before I published Book #1. It was important that I could see where I was going with this series regarding each story’s plot and story arc. I also wanted each book to have roughly the same word count. The series is ideal for children ages 5 to 9.
It was important that I include the song in the supplemental pages that Sammy learns in the story. I wrote Treasures of the Sea using the three chords Sammy learned and provided a finger diagram and instructions on how to play the song. I wanted this to be accessible to children who have never played the ukulele or who are just starting on their ukulele journey.
The Ocean World
I enjoyed creating Sammy’s underwater world full of colorful plants and animals. Just like the first book, I used traditional watercolor and sketched with a pen, and then added a few digital effects to the paintings. I found some of my inspiration in my large coffee table books about the ocean and any other resources I could find online that showed the diverse landscape and sea creatures. The ocean is such a fascinating place, full of wonder, and I wanted kids to be intrigued by the depictions of coral and seaweed. I enjoyed creating a few larger-than-life characters like Alex the Angelfish and Mariah the Jellyfish. These are bright and colorful characters who are supportive and cheer Sammy on as he practices his song.
5-Star Review from Readers’ Favorite
Readers Favorite recently reviewed Ukulele Practice Time and gave it a 5-star rating. Reviewer Emily-Jane Hills Orford wrote, “Susan Montgomery’s picture book, Ukulele Practice Time: A Strumming Seahorse Story, is a clever introduction to music, the ukulele, and a strumming seahorse with a passion for music.” You can read the entire review here.
What’s Next for Sammy?
Now that I have written and published the first two stories in the series, in 2024 I will be working on Book #3 illustrations and fine-tuning the story. I already have a solid draft but will keep going over it to make sure it’s just right. Sammy will learn more beginner-friendly ukulele skills and concepts and continue learning about perseverance and the joy of sharing music with friends.
I am grateful to you, my readers, for taking the time to enjoy this series and sharing it with young players and readers. I am passionate about creating fun books about the ukulele and I’m so glad you enjoy them. I encourage you to leave any honest thoughts or comments about the book or series on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or one of the many audiobook platforms. You can find a list of retailers for Paperback, eBook, and audiobook versions here.