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4.13  ·  Rating details ·  4,201 ratings  ·  119 reviews
Lentil cannot sing or even whistle; longing to make music in some fashion, he provides himself with a harmonica and practices constantly wherever he is, especially in the bathtub, because there his tone is improved 100 percent. A book that, along with its fun, truly illustrates the American scene.
Paperback, 64 pages
Published April 27th 1978 by Puffin Books (first published 1940)
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Average rating 4.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,201 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Lentil can’t sing or whistle and he loves music, so he plays the harmonica. The story is set up so that Lentil can save the day with his harmonica. How can someone playing a harmonica save the day, well, it's a great story and you should read it.

I love Robert’s drawings in this story and it’s a beginning story. This one is not long at all. It’s a great little story. I actually love this one. It’s silly and sweet and perfect. Robert has a gift when he tells a story. He really knows all the right
Aug 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm giving this five stars for the illustrations. The words are sweet, but I almost felt that the illustrations told the entire story just as well. Lentil is the most adorable boy and the story is nostalgic and fun and touching--poor Lentil cannot sing well, or whistle, but he loves music... so he saves his money to buy a harmonica; and his harmonica playing soon saves the day! This is from the early 1940s but you could totally picture Opie Taylor from "Andy Griffith" reading this and getting in ...more
Tricia Douglas
Another of my favorite author of children's books. As a child I read all of his books, my favorite always being Homer Price and Make Way for Ducklings. They will go down in history. Plus his illustrations will always remind me of my childhood. Lentil shows show a boy who can't sing can still be musical AND save the day. All children should read this one.
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I cannot believe I never read this when I was little. Lentil, a young boy who cannot pucker his lips, has never been able to sing, nor can he whistle. What is a boy to do? He goes to the store and buys a harmonica and plays it all around town all the way to school. Everyone likes it. That is, everyone except Old Sneep. While everyone is preparing for Colonel Carter's return to town, Old Sneep is being an old grouch and decides to suck on a lemon, which causes the band to not play (their lips are ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
It rather reminds me of McCloskey's Homer Price books. A rather goofy premise (boy playing harmonica) that turns into an entirely comical and unlikely adventure.
To check out all my reviews:

When researching about this authors bibliography I discover that some of his books are no longer in circulation which is disappointing at times but for this particular book I agree with the vast majority that this book should no longer be available for mass consumption.

This book takes place in Alto, Ohio where we meet our main character named Lentil who loves to play the harmonica. Based on the illustrations the small town is depic
Melanie Dulaney
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a blast from the past! I found a nearly new condition copy of Lentil at a resale shop and bought it for my "Grandma" book shelf because it bears award-winning author Robert McCloskey's name. But I had forgotten how much I love this one--the illustrations are beautifully done and reflect another time perfectly. The themes of being yourself, searching until you find your niche, giving to others are all there. Teachers (and Grandmas) can use this book for teaching so many reading skills or jus ...more
Rosa Cline
Dec 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: kids
This is an old 'classic' book, illustrations are black and white but still very adorable. Lentil is a little boy that wants so bad to sing; but he simply can't. So he saves his money and gets a harmonica and teaches himself to play. He plays it everywhere he goes. A big parade to welcome a special town man coming to town is scheduled but when the train arrives with the man the bank can't play! But Lentil brings out his harmonica and saves the day!
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book would be very long, but it's just oversized. The amount of text on the pages isn't too overwhelming. A very cute story about a boy named Lentil who can't sing but learns to play the harmonica instead. Then he and his harmonica help out the town at in a difficult (very funny!) situation.
Apr 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Stephanie by: Sonlight
Shelves: homeschool
What a cute classic story. Robert McCloskey knows how to write fun and moralistic stories.
The moral of this story: just because you don't have one talent doesn't mean you can't find another and in some way save the day.
But don't forget to practice practice practice!!!
Robert Davis
A nice old fashioned kind of story about a boy who saves the day with his harmonica.

Mr. McCloskey sure liked to draw church steeples. Practically every page has a church in it, and there are at least three churches in the town of Alto, Ohio, judging by the endsheet illustration.
Luisa Knight
A fun story that has humorous, unpredictable twists and is charming! Just start reading it and you'll see.

McCloskey's illustrations are a delight and I'm going to name him the "Children's Norman Rockwell" as he does such a fabulous job capturing old town America.

Ages 3+
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kid-lit
The book is cute and is revolved around music. A boy who does not have a lot of musical talent, finds a way to express himself musically through a harmonica. He finds his best place to practice and has fun while walking to school. It is good book.
Ms. B
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture, 2000s
Curious about what life in a small town in the first half of the 1900s was like? The illustrations in this story about Lentil, a boy and his harmonica will give you a clue.
Cara Byrne
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"you never can tell what will happen when you learn to play the harmonica." There is something so quirky about this picture book published in 1940. The story is silly, the character of Old Sneep (the lemon sucker) bizarre, and the conclusion humorous.
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: predicting
A lovely, quaint book! An unexpected ending.
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
I wish I had known about this book when my oldest son wanted a harmonica for his birthday. It would have been the perfect go-along gift. Such a sweet story about a boy who, though not musically inclined, wants to make music. He can't carry a tune, and can't even pucker his lips to whistle. So he buys a harmonica and practices during every spare moment. The day comes when that practice comes in handy and he saves the day with his harmonica tunes. Worthwhile themes such as community, giving and gr ...more
Aug 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids-classics
This is an adorable book. The illustrations alone make it worthwhile reading--vivid, humorous, and nostalgic (although I guess they weren't nostalgic at the time it was written and first published). Lentil was a cute kid who didn't give up on his dream, and was rewarded for it. The story itself seemed far-fetched to me in several ways (Don't you purse your lips to play a harmonica too? It's been awhile since I've played around with one.), but this is a kids' book, so I guess it's not as big of a ...more
Feb 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: storybook, 2017
Ugh! There were many annoying factors to this story - the hero worshipping, the playing nice to get money from the rich guy, the supreme maleness of the book (I am giving allowances for that given the time the book was written), the requirement that the reader stretch credulity to the ridiculousness (and I give no allowances for that). BUT the main part that irked me was this book was obviously written by someone who knows nothing about playing band instruments, and yet he not only chose to writ ...more
David Goetz
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Another solid McCloskey book. Not as popular or enduring as his more famous works--Make Way For Ducklings, Time of Wonder, One Morning in Maine, and Blueberries for Sal come to mind--the second-tier of McCloskey books are still worth reading today for the playfulness, the nostalgia, and the illustrations.

"You never can tell what will happen when you learn to play the harmonica."
Charity Yost Reed
Apr 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I did not learn to whistle until I was 16, so this was another book, like Whistle for Willie, that would have been an encouragement to me then. My children were more fascinated with the lemon and harmonica themes here.
Madelaine Smith
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
LOVE. I discovered this book while grabbing "Make Way For Ducklings" and I'm glad I did!
"Lentil" is an adorable story about a boy who can't sing, so he learns the harmonica, a skill that comes in unexpectedly handy one day. 5 stars from me--AND from my 1st and 2nd grade class.
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childhood
An average story, but great illustrations of quaint small town life and buildings.
Marius S
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Lemons always sound good when I read this book.
Lentil saves the day when the town grump tries to foil the town celebration for the beloved mayors return to town. "So, you never know what will happen when you learn to play the harmonica!"
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Today's children need to read this, if only to see Lentil's bare feet everywhere, even to school. McCloskey definitely deserves all the awards he won as an illustrator. And the story is a hoot.
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I have always loved McCloskey’s illustrations. The Homer Price books were grade school favorites. I read this one because Ted Kooser mentioned loving it when he was young.
Sara Hollar
One of our favorite picture books of the year!
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a wonderful look back. The story is funny and the artwork is excellent, but a stark reminder of our segregated past. I couldn’t find anyone who wasn’t white in the whole town.
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John Robert McCloskey (September 15, 1914 – June 30, 2003) was an American writer and illustrator of children's books. He both wrote and illustrated eight picture books and won two Caldecott Medals from the American Library Association recognizing the year's best-illustrated picture book. Four of those eight books were set in Maine: Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, Time of Wonder, and Bu ...more

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“So, you never can tell what will happen when you learn to play the harmonica.” 5 likes
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