Music Book Review: The Story Orchestra – In the Hall of the Mountain King

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.

The image shows the front cover of the book. The cover is green with the title of the book in gold lettering. There are images of elves, trolls, a mountain, the mountain king, and other creatures and elements of nature found within the book depicted on the cover.

At the foot of some mountains very far away, Peer Gynt is with his mother at a wedding. The couple is dancing and the guests are eating but Peter is bored. His mother tells him to play quietly but Peter dreams of adventure…

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:

This illustrates what the button to press to make the musical excerpt play looks like. It is a white circle with a coloured circle in the middle (here a green one) and inside the coloured circle is a musical note. This symbol appears throughout the book.

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

If you have enjoyed reading my blog post, thank you. I am always looking for ideas for the blog, so would love to hear from you with suggestions for topics you would like me to cover in the future. Also, if you would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, buying the books to review here, and supplies to make the DIY instruments, for example, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!

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