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For this month’s Music Book Review, I am looking at a book aimed at slightly older children – A History of Music for Children by Mary Richards & David Schweitzer and illustrated by Rose Blake.
I really liked this book. As a topic for a children’s book, “the history of music” could be a little daunting and maybe even off putting, but the authors have managed to write something very informative, engaging and in a fun way that is absolutely great for children. I also love the illustrations by Rose Blake and that she has put herself in every chapter of the book, I think on every double page spread at least once!
The book is very much a whistle stop tour of the topics covered, but I felt that that was the right approach considering its audience. This is a book aimed at fairly young children who are just starting to develop an interest in music, or who have been given the book to read (like my son!). It is in depth enough to give them some information, to tell them things they did not already know without overwhelming or boring them with too many technical or historical details.
The book starts off asking the question What Is Music? talking about who the first musicians possibly were and the difference between sound and music. The authors then move on to discussing what music has been made in different times and places looking back to how ancient Egyptians may have made music, making reference to how the Bible describes King David (of David and Goliath renown) playing the harp so sweetly he could ward off evil spirits with his music, and how this story features in the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. They discuss the relationship between music and power in music history where Kings and Queens used music to display their wealth and power. There is a chapter all about how music is and has been made, what musical instruments are and have been used; how technology has changed music making, production and the listener’s experience of and with music. There is even a chapter on Feeling Music.
Things I like about the book
- I like the mix of music theory (how to make music, or the science of music making and what music is) with history (so what instruments people have used, how people developed ways to write music, how music was used and consumed etc)
- I like that it did not focus just on Western Classical (with a big C referring to all music that is not jazz, rock or pop music) Music. When I was a girl, learning music history largely meant learning about the lives of the dead, white Classical composers, this book is so much more all encompassing, and so much less dry!
- I like that music from many styles, eras and cultures was included. This is a very inclusive book.
- I loved the Timeline Of Inventions towards the back of the book, a great pictoral and quick reference.
- I liked that there was a bit of music theory, bringing practical music making back into the historical information provided.
- I loved the cartoon at the start of each chapter introducing some of the people or concepts we were about to meet in the next few pages.
- I loved that there was a chapter all about the relationship between art and music – all of the arts are very connected as far as I am concerned, and I loved seeing that represented here – and the encouragement for readers to have a go at drawing what they see when listening to music.
A 7 Year Old’s Reaction To The Book
As he is absolutely in the suggested age range for reading this book, I got my son to have a read and let me know what he thought of it. The first think I noticed was that when he got to the part of the book where it talked about how musician Dave Grohl learned to play drums using pillows, he got quite excited, and started using the arms on our settee arms as a drum, having a go himself.
My son said he liked the book. He is a definite non-fiction book fan, so the fact that the book told you lots of different facts was a hit with him. He loved the invention timeline at the end of the book, loved that his current favourite musical, the Wizard of Oz, (he was in this at school at the time) was featured, and when asked about his favourite part he read out to me one of the sections about the gramophone that Captain Scott took on his Antarctic Expedition and that when found many years later the gramophone still worked despite having been frozen in ice. I had asked my son to read both this book and the Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Music book that I have previously reviewed, and he preferred this book saying it was better for his age, and that the other book was for children younger than him.
Looking at the reading age range suggested for this book on Amazon, it suggests 6-8 which I am surprised with given that a book I have previously reviewed here, Usborne Books’ Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers About Music, has a suggested reading age of 6-9. I did enjoy the Questions and Answers About Music book, but I would consider this book to be more in depth, and aimed at an older age child so would disagree with Amazon on this one. I would say that this book is suitable for 7 or 8 year olds and older, and I would think that any child who is gaining an interest in music up until maybe they start senior school would enjoy it and get something out of it. So my suggested reading age would be 7-11.
At the time of writing this blog post A History of Music for Children is available on Amazon priced at £7.75, though the prices on Amazon do change with demand and can increase if the book becomes very popular. If you have enjoyed this review, and it has made you think you would like to buy the book for yourself you can click on this picture of the book which will take you to an affiliate link. This means that I may earn a small commission on your purchase at no extra cost to you.
I really liked this book, thought it was a breath of fresh air, especially for a book on a subject that could get quite dull, and for a subject that I remember as being a little dry from my childhood learning about music history. There is something of interest in there for any music fan. So I would highly recommend it, and I’ll certainly be on the lookout for any more books by these authors.
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