This month’s Music Book Review is another in the fantastic Story Orchestra series of books. I love this series, which takes famous pieces of classical music – some opera, some ballet, some orchestral music – and through either telling the story behind the opera or ballet, or writing a story to go along with the music, and combining that, Jennifer Courtney-Tickle’s beautiful illustrations and excerpt from the piece that each book is based on, the books bring the music to life for young readers.
And so begins our fantastical tale based on the story behind Edvard Grieg’s music, In the Hall of the Mountain King. This book brings Grieg’s music to life for young children, by telling the tale full of adventure with trolls and a daring escape from the Mountain King with beautiful illustrations from Jennifer Courtney-Tickle and excerpts from Grieg’s music of the same name. It is an excellent introduction to this beautiful and atmospheric piece of music- one that is a favourite with my little boy and which you will no doubt recognise when hearing some of the excerpts. To hear the excerpts you need to press the musical note, which appears on each page and look a bit like this:
If, after reading this story book you would like to listen to more of this piece of music, then I can recommend listening to the following recording which you can do by visiting Spotify, though it will be available on various other platforms, wherever you get your streamed music.
At the end of the story, the book gives you a glossary defining some of the terms used either within the story itself or the description of each of the musical excerpts on the following page that your children may not be familiar with, such as “aria”, “melisma” and “opera”. There is also a very short biography for the composer along with a very brief introduction to the opera itself and a little historical context about the ideology of the times when Mozart wrote this opera. Finally, you can hear all of the different excerpts from The Magic Flute in one place on the final page of the book. For each excerpt, there is a short description of the music as well as information about where in the opera you can find this particular excerpts
Would your child enjoy this book? Well as always, you know your child best and there are some elements of this particular book that some children could be a little frightened by – here Peer goes of on an adventure and goes into a dark cave where he is confronted by trolls and the Mountain King. I don’t think that it is too scary, the way it is done in this book, but one of my children may have worried about this aspect of the story when they were younger. In terms of understanding the story, I would say that depending on whether you are reading this to your child, or they are reading it for themselves, this is a great book for children aged 5 to 8. Of course with buttons to press to listen to the music, that is always a winner in my house with both children. And the buttons are quite light touch as well, meaning that even my 5 year old is strong enough to press it and get the music to play.
At the time of writing the book is available from Amazon (and other retailers) priced at £12.86
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