Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music

  • Written by:Michael Genhart, PhD
  • Illustrated by: Priscilla Burris
  • Age Range: 4 – 8 years
  • Pages: 32, Color Size: 9″ x 10″
  • ISBN-10: TBD
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-4338-3074-7
  • Publisher: Magination Press (April 2020)
  • Language: English



When both grandpas, Abuelo and Opa, visit at the same time, they can’t understand each other’s language and there is a lot of silence. The grandson’s clever thinking helps find a way for everyone to share the day together as two cultures become one family.

This unique book includes a bonus fold-out and a note from the author sharing the true story of his own family.


2020 International Latino Book Awards Finalist

2021 CLEL (Colorado Libraries Early Literacy) Bell Picture Book Award Shortlist – SING


Magination Press Family: Finding Connection Through Music and Books

As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, many families find themselves being brought together or forced to be apart. Everywhere, people are looking for ways to stay positively connected. The little boy in Magination Press’ book, Accordionly:Abuelo and Opa Make Music by Michael Genhart PhD, shows great creativity and wisdom as he finds a way to help his grandfathers connect through music.

This post, from Dr. Genhart, explores the way picture books and music can help children and grown-ups connect with others. It’s a timely and timeless idea.

Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music is the story of a boy who brings the two cultures of his family together through the music of the accordion – with the help of his two grandfathers, who do not speak each other’s languages but do speak the universal language of music. Based on my own family and memories from my childhood, this book is a joyful celebration of family and how common threads connect us all.

More and more American families are multicultural, where different cultures come together to form a union of diverse languages, food, clothing, tradition, and ritual. Since children can sometimes feel like they are “not enough” of any one culture, it is important to offer them opportunities to celebrate the richness of all the cultures that make them unique. Children’s books are in a special position to affirm a child’s experience of being multicultural.

The concept of “mirrors and windows” in children’s books highlights the many wonderful ways children can see the world, reflecting their own lives (mirrors) as well as introducing them to the lives of others that are not like themselves (windows). Similarly, the notion of “sliding doors” shows that stories for children can enable them to “walk into” other worlds. Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music is an example of how a children’s book can show all children that the world is a diverse place – some child readers will see themselves in this story while others will be invited to meet a family different from their own.

Books where a child can identify with a main character in positive ways are tremendously powerful. They are doing some heavy lifting in that these books serve to bolster positive self-image and self-esteem. When kids see themselves in a book, in some cases for the first time, they can feel empowered, not alone, and not marginalized. In fact, children are likely to feel support, acceptance and love – important building blocks for positive development of self. Those children who are seeing a world unlike their own in books like Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music can confront any stereotypes or prejudices they may be holding, as well as begin to develop empathy and appreciation for diversity.

Spoken language, particularly reading books aloud to children, is a powerful mode of communication. In Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music the accordion is a central character that shows that music is another potent means of communicating. In this story the grandson uses his creativity to unite his family by inviting his grandfathers, who do not share a spoken language, to teach each other the music of their respective countries. Music becomes a bridge. In the end, a family formed by diverse cultures is brought together and celebrated – reminding us all to seek common connections and unity.

Coloring Activity Kit

Click here to access a coloring activity for Accordionly



“Genhart draws on his own family’s history for inspiration in his newest diversity-celebrating picture book.

Abuelo plays accordion in a mariachi band where he “hoots and hollers” louder than anyone. Opa plays accordion in a polka band where his yodels can “[make] the windows shake.” But when Abuelo and Opa get together at their grandchild’s home, the Mexican-German cultural divide seems a chasm too wide to span. Though both are perfectly polite, an uncomfortable silence begins to settle—until the empathetic protagonist encourages them both to get out their accordions. Through their shared love of music, harmony is soon restored and a bridge built between two cultures. This is a reassuring story, emphasizing that though we may be different we can find common ground, an especially important message for multiracial/multiethnic children who can often feel pulled between competing identities. Burris’ dot-eyed and brightly colored illustrations are darling, highlighting each culture well. The narrator has light-brown skin and dark hair; Abuelo’s side of the family has brown skin and Opa’s, white. As mixed-race families continue to grow, this title is sure to find a ready audience. Notes from both author and illustrator celebrate their own multiethnic backgrounds, which contributed to the story.

A warm musical celebration of multicultural families. (Picture book. 3-6)

“Gr 2–Members of multiracial families may have more in common than expected. This is the story of a young boy whose grandfathers cannot understand each other because they come from different countries and speak different languages. This saddens the boy, especially at family gatherings. One day, the boy realizes that even though his Abuelo and his Opa do not speak the same language, they are both great accordion players and share a love for music that radiates to the whole family.

Genhart, who is Mexican and Swiss American, is a clinical psychologist and an Independent Publisher Book Award recipient for children’s books. The mixed Latin-European heritage is conveyed by the main character as he tries to reconcile the differences between the two sides of his family and the features that bring them together. The illustrations rely on expressive tertiary characters and a pictorial setting built with shades of brown and other brighter colors to depict the story line. This picture book is published by an imprint of the American Psychological Association, which may resonate with parents who are looking for a story based on mixed-race families. Even more, the boy’s problem-solving abilities offer an opportunity to talk to children about situations that trouble them, and possible solutions.

VERDICT A thoughtful picture book for storytime and one-on-one reads.”

Kathia Ibacache, Simi Valley Public Library, CA

“Genhart pulls from his own childhood growing up in bicultural family in this cheery picture book, which tells of a young boy and how the accordion brought his family together. When the boy’s Mexican grandparents visit, Abuelo plays mariachi music on his accordion, and Abuela makes delicious savory tamales. When his Swedish family comes, Opa plays polkas on his accordion, and Oma makes lebkuchen and hot cocoa. On one occasion, both sets of grandparents come at the same time, but a language barrier presents an obstacle in getting to know one another. The boy is happy to see his grandmothers getting along, but the grandfathers operate in polite silence
until the boy brings out the accordions. Music is the universal language, and both grandfathers enjoy each other’s playing, ultimately transforming the earlier quiet into a party! Great for reading aloud and featuring bright, energetic illustrations, this endearing story supports diversity and
multicultural inclusion. Additional features include a four-page foldout and a note from the author on the story’s background.”

— Rosie Camargo