Children find orchestras fascinating – all those instruments and the magical sounds they make…
Yet orchestras can also seem like they belong in a different world to that of your average primary school child and can easily be classified as something ‘other people’ do.
These two books can help to address this issue. They are quite different: one is more reflective and the other more fun; one has a central character who is a child, the other has no particular central character; one was released earlier this year and the other is from the 1980’s; one takes the life of a child and shows how that that life can become involved in orchestral music and composing, the other takes the lives of orchestral musicians and draws comparisons with childrens’ lives.
“Because” by Mo Willems, illustrated by Amber Ren is an absolutely wonderful, picture book. The story is gorgeous and the illustrations are out of this world. I love this book.
It tells the story of a small girl who goes to a concert on her uncle’s ticket as he is ill. She is inspired by what she sees and hears and afterwards starts writing her own music. The story finishes with the girl having grown up and conducting a concert of music she has composed.
The main messages are of inspiration, gratitude and appreciation:
- You can follow your creativity and your interest
- Lots of people contribute to our world in lots of different ways
- We have an effect on the people around us and this can sometimes be immense and even inspiring
- Performances can be truly inspiring and life changing
- Concerts are the culmination of a series of steps that are undertaken by a group of people
I read this story with a group of my Year 2’s and they lapped it up. I think Years 2-4 would all especially like this.
It is nice that the main character is female and not only composed her own music but conducts it too.
Here is a sample reading of the book:
It could be paired well with another of my favorite books, “The Philharmonic gets Dressed“ by Karla Kuskin, illustrated by Marc Simont. In this lovely book we see the orchestra members in all their normality, getting ready for the concert, having a bath, getting dressed and traveling to the concert venue.
This is done in detail with lots of interesting pictures of bathing, putting on underwear and socks etc. Very tasteful and funny. Again,Years 2-4 really find this hilarious and it helps them see orchestral musicians as normal people who do the mundane things in life just like they do.
If you are looking for books to complement an ‘Orchestra’ unit of learning, a ‘careers in music’ topic or just for general enjoyment, I recommend both of these books.