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This month’s Music Book Review is one of The Story Orchestra series of books, this time telling the tale of Isabelle who is on her way to the Spring Festival with her puppy Pickle.
The book, Four Seasons In One Day written by Katie Cotton, with notes by Katy Flint and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, starts when Isabelle wakes up in the morning, hearing birds singing outside her window. Isabelle has breakfast, grabs her apple tree and bag and calls to her puppy Pickle to follow her so they get to the Spring Festival by noon. As Isabelle, Pickle and the apple tree travel to the Spring Festival, they also travel through the seasons, starting in the Spring and Summer on the way and while they are enjoying the Festival. As the Festival comes to an end the clouds turn stormy and the air cools until Isabelle and Pickle enjoy an apple under a blanket at home snuggled up by the fire in a lovely wintry scene.
As Isabelle and Pickle travel along through the story, and through the seasons, they are accompanied by the music of Baroque composer Vivaldi. Readers are encouraged to press the note icon that appears on each double page to hear an excerpt from The Four Seasons. One that, of course, matches the season depicted on that particular page.
The book is beautifully illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle, using different colour palettes to match the season depicted.
After you have enjoyed the story, you are told more about the music involved in this book. A breakdown of each of the excerpts from The Four Seasons is given, with some hints as to some things to listen out for in the music, such as:
The little jumpy trills sound like people trembling in the icy snow. The solo violin enters playing very fast notes that leap up and down, like an icy wind whipping around you.Final page, excerpt 8.
There is also a musical glossary, defining some of the musical terms used within the book and a small potted biography of the composer of The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi.
Vivaldi’s Four Seasons is a group of four violin concertos (works for solo violin accompanied by a string ensemble), each one written to paint a picture of the different seasons. Like this book, the piece starts in Spring time and works through the seasons until the work ends in Winter. Vivaldi himself wrote sonnets to accompany his music explaining what he intended the music to show and giving hints to his listeners as to what to listen out for, what elements in the music he wrote to paint a picture of, say, sleepy village life. There are so many performances and recordings of The Four Seasons that you are absolutely spoiled for choice if you want to listen to more.
Amazon recommends the book is aimed at 6-9 year olds, and I partially agree with this suggestion, particularly if your children are reading it for themselves. The words used are simple, and so emerging readers would not find it too challenging. If reading the book to your child, rather than reading it themselves, then I would probably suggest that it is aimed more at younger readers. My 4 year old has thoroughly enjoyed the book. She loves pressing the buttons (frankly any book with buttons to press to hear sounds is always a winner with her), and it has a better story than many sound books which are starting to be a little too young for her in content. My eldest, at 7, enjoys reading the book out loud (and fighting with his sister over who gets to press the buttons!) and it has prompted conversations about the music involved, getting us to go off and listen to The Four Seasons to see what he can hear in the music.
This book is part of a series of books all from The Story Orchestra. I love this series of books, because while they explain and bring these stories to life for young children, I feel that while they are short books written with the attention span of young children in mind, they don’t dumb the story or the music used down. We have a number of books from this series, and you can read my reviews of them here (I think they are all great, is the short version…).
I would suggest the book for 4 – 8 year olds, with it being simple, short and engaging enough for the younger age group and easy enough to read by themselves for the older age group. At the time of writing this post, the book was priced at £12.55 for a hardcover edition. Of course, Amazon’s prices can change, and the book is also available from other book retailers.
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