During his lifetime, author and illustrator Don Freeman (1908-1978) created some of the most beloved classics in children's literature, including Corduroy, Mop Top and Dandelion. More than 25 years after his death, a lost manuscript and drawings were discovered by Freeman's son in the attic of the family's home. This treasure, titled Manuelo and the Playing Mantis, is especially meaningful because it reflects the late author's own life and love of music. In 1929, Don Freeman went to New York City to study at the Arts Students League. To support himself, he played the trumpet. One night, while sketching on the subway, he almost missed his stop. Springing from the train, he left his instrument behind. Freeman apparently took this as a sign that he should turn his attentions to becoming a full-time artist, and so he began writing and illustrating children's books in the 1940s. Freeman's love of music shines through in this tale of a praying mantis named Manuelo who loves to attend outdoor summer concerts. Manuelo knows the names and sounds of all the instruments he hears and wishes that he, too, could become a musician so he sets out to make himself an instrument. At first Manuelo seems destined to fail: his attempts to make music from a reed flute, a trumpet flower and a harp made of twigs all end in disappointment. Then, with the help of Debby Webster (like Charlotte, a very generous and compassionate spider) Manuelo is able to fashion a cello out of a walnut shell, a twig, a bow made from a feather and strings made of silken spider threads. That night, when Manuelo plays his cello, crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and frogs circle around him and make their own music, forming a glorious symphony indeed! In the end, the would-be musician's determination pays off, making this final offering a story of inspiration. Freeman created another classic with Manuelo, a tale that's sure to delight old fans and please new readers.

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