Music Book Review

Music Book Review: The Bear and the Piano

The Bear and the Piano is a lovely book written and illustrated by David Litchfield.

You can read my review of his other book The Bear, The Piano, The Dog & the Fiddle here.

The Bear and the Piano is the story of a bear who, one day when he is very young, finds a piano in the middle of the forest. He has a go at playing this object and when he touches it, the thing makes a sound he has never heard before. Startled, he runs off.

The bear comes back to the piano day after day, each time having a go at touching this object and becoming more and more familiar and comfortable with the sounds it makes. He goes from just touching the piano to playing it beautifully.

One day, the bear’s talent is discovered and he is encouraged to travel away from the forest to perform for audiences far and wide – well you would be intrigued to see a bear playing the piano, wouldn’t you?! I won’t say any more about the plot of the book, you will have to read it for yourself.

The book explores the bear’s journey from cub who finds a noisy object he doesn’t understand to virtuoso pianist, and how he feels about that journey. To my mind, it is a great book to explain why it is important for children to practise their chosen musical instrument, no matter how plinky plonky, or awful it sounds when they first start out. By practising every day, like the bear, they too could become a virtuoso performer and it could change their life.

Not only is this a lovely story that I have very much enjoyed reading with my children, but it is beautifully illustrated by the author/illustrator.

I love this book, and my children have loved it as well. I will be very sad when they don’t want me to read it to them any more!

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Jazz Baby

This month I am reviewing Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and beautifully illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Jazz Baby is a new book to me, but was written in 2007 by American author Lisa Wheeler. It is a book about a baby whose world is filled with music. Everyone in Jazz Baby’s life sings, or dances, or taps/claps out rhythm throughout Baby’s day and Baby gets to join in too. The music starts gently, with a little tapping, and builds to the point where even the neighbours are joining in, then calms down to a gentle rhythm again to lull baby off to sleep – in much the same way as many pieces of music start off quietly and gently, build to a crescendo, and then gently die away at the end.

This book is written in verse, unashamedly rhythmic verse, you can even hear music accompanying it as you read it aloud – maybe that’s just me! But I doubt that anyone reading this book aloud would be able to avoid at least tapping their feet along to the beat, or pulse of the verse!

It is a good book for starting to explore different ideas of rhythm and sound and how they are made with your little one:

You can read the book using different voices – use a high voice when it says “Mama sings high” or “Mama swings high” and a low voice when it says “Daddy sings low” or “Daddy swings low”. Use a loud voice as Baby exclaims “GO, MAN, GO!” There is plenty of opportunity to explore using your voice in different ways in this book, and in my experience babies love to hear you using lots of different voices, and the full range of your voice from high to low and loud to quiet when reading to them.

Jazz Baby would make a great bedtime story for small children, and would be good for young readers to attempt for themselves. It uses simple, easy to understand language, and the rhythm of the words would help younger children understand and enjoy the book. On Amazon it suggests that it is suitable for 4-7 year olds. I think this is a suggestion only in terms of the child being able to read the book by themselves, as I would suggest it is aimed at children 4 and under if you are reading to them.

I bought this hard cover copy of Jazz Baby from Amazon, and at the time of writing it was priced at £10.44

If you have got to the end of this blog post, thank you very much for reading and I hope you have enjoyed, or got something out of this post! If you have enjoyed what you have read, and would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!

Music Book Review

Product Review: Music Instruments Colouring Book

I have reviewed a music-themed colouring book before- last time one that was supposedly aimed at adults- now here is my review of the children’s music themed colouring book I bought at the same time. I was not at all impressed with the adult’s colouring book when I reviewed it, and must admit that I was not very much more impressed with this one.

The first page of the book was, of course, a name page. Most children like putting their name on their books, and mine was no exception. It was clear from this page that the book was not written by an English speaker. My daughter didn’t care about that, and we had to put her name in it as soon as she saw it (picture taken before my daughter got hold of the book):

There were some nice pictures included in the book, the pictures of the mermaids playing instruments I knew my daughter would particularly love.

And there were some images that were a bit boring, I felt.

There were some where the print quality was really not very good at all, the pictures being quite blurred.

And, the pictures only appeared on the right hand page. If I was looking at this with my positive head on, then I guess it helped prevent the colour from one picture bleeding onto another picture when using felt pens. Perhaps less charitably, it helped cut down on illustrations to include in the book and maybe made the book appear bigger than it was on the shop shelf. My daughter did quite enjoy having a page to doodle on next to the picture she was colouring in, though.

This page was, frankly, inexplicable. I have no idea what it is there for, unless it was not intended to be included in the book.

As predicted my daughter went straight for the mermaid pictures, and left what she termed as the “boring” pictures for me to colour in under her direction – she does like to watch me colour pictures in for her!

All in all, the book was OK. I am not convinced that it was worth the £5.99 I paid for it given the print quality of some of the pictures. This is a colouring book for young children. My 4 year old was very pleased with the book, but my 7 year old would not have looked twice at it. I would say it was aimed at under 5s. I bought mine from Amazon and the link to that product, if you are interested is here.

If you have got to the end of this blog post, thank you very much for reading and I hope you have enjoyed, or got something out of this post! If you have enjoyed what you have read, and would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: The Story Orchestra – Swan Lake

This month’s Music Book Review is another in The Story Orchestra series, this time Swan Lake using the music from the ballet by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky. The book is illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle.

This book, with its gorgeous illustrations, tells the story of the ballet Swan Lake. There is a Prince, Siegfried, who starts the tale at his 21st birthday party where he is told that he must find himself a wife and take on his role of looking after the kingdom. Siegfried does not want to do this, so he runs off from his party. He meets and falls in love with a Princess who has been cursed by an evil sorceror to appear as a swan during the day and only at night can she take on her human form. The evil sorceror tries to trick Siegfried by getting his daughter to pose as the Swan Princess so that his curse cannot be lifted (of course the curse can only be lifted when the Swan Princess Odette finds true love). Will the curse be lifted, and will Odette spend the rest of her days as a swan? Well, you will have to read the book to find out if you don’t already know.

This is a sound book, so throughout the book there are musical notation symbols which, when pressed, play excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

At the end of the story, the book gives you a glossary defining some of the terms used that your children may not be familiar with, such as “ballet”, “motif” and “scoring”. There is also a very short biography for the composer along with a very brief introduction to the ballet itself and how it is usually performed.

Finally, you can hear all of the different excerpts from the ballet 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 ballet you can find this particular excerpt.

I love these books. I have a couple of them now, this one and The Nutcracker, which I will probably review around Christmas time) and they are an absolutely excellent introduction to the ballet and the wonderful music of those ballets.

At the time of writing The Story Orchestra: Swan Lake was available on Amazon priced at £11.45

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Giraffes Can’t Dance

This month’s Music Book Review is one of my favourites for reading with my children: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees.

This is the story of Gerald the Giraffe who would love to dance in the annual Jungle Dance, but who is not very good at dancing like the other animals.

As the story continues, Gerald experiences the pain of being laughed at by the other animals when he cannot dance the way they can, but he eventually finds his own way of dancing.

This is not a book that is explicitly about music, no; however, it is a story written in verse which is very musical, especially when read aloud. The animals in the book dance to different styles of music, and I have read this to my children, playing the different types of music as we go along. Sometimes, depending on how close we are to bedtime and whether I want them to calm down ready to sleep or not, we have taken our time over the book even having a little go at the dances as they are mentioned (cue many giggles over Mummy being a bit silly getting them to do a waltz or a tango).

The book deals beautifully with the difficult subject of bullying, tackling head on how Gerald feels when the other animals laugh at him as he tries to dance. And by the end of the book Gerald is helped to find his own style of dancing, his own way of expressing himself or his own voice if you like, by a cricket with a violin.

What I love about the book, apart from the fact that it is a lovely story told with beautiful lyrical language and lovely illustrations, is that Gerald is helped to find a way to express himself through music – an absolutely brilliant lesson for children as music is such a great tool for self-expression.

We have had this book at home for several years, and it is available for sale from your book retailer of choice in paperback, board book and sound book versions. It is absolutely lovely and a book you won’t mind reading many times over!

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Where Are All The Instruments

This month’s Music Book Review is Where Are All The Instruments: European Orchestra. The book is written by musician, author and music education blogger Nathan Holder and illustrated by Charity Russell.

The Jumo orchestra have arrived at the concert hall to play their concert, only to find that their musical instruments have all gone missing. Lucky for the orchestra, the Why Squad are on hand to help them find their instruments. We follow the Why Squad (a group of very helpful children) as they explore the park, the beach, even space in their search for the orchestra’s musical instruments. As they find each instrument, the children describe some of the characteristics of it. For example, they discuss how a string instrument is played with a bow, a french horn looks like a snail, a flute has a high pitched sound.

The Why Squad save the day and at the end of the book they stay to listen to the concert.

After the conclusion of the book all of the orchestral instruments are set out in their “families” (violins, violas, cellos and double basses are all part of the string family, for example), and there are a few tasks set, together with the answers, for the children to look and try to find all of the hidden instruments, so to have a really good look at them in the book).

This is one of a series of books about music and musicians featuring The Why Squad – curious children asking questions about music and music history. This is the first that I have read with my children, but I doubt it will be the last.

It is a beautifully illustrated book and perfectly pitched for young children to introduce them to what instruments of the orchestra look like, and give them a little idea of what they might sound like as well. I read it with both of my children, and it was most enjoyed by my 3 year old who liked searching for the instruments and seeing where they were hidden on each page. It prompted discussion about what the instruments would sound like, and following on from this discussion I found excerpts of each instrument for them to listen to. This was invaluable for my older boy as well, although at nearly 7 I felt he was a bit too old for the book; he has really got interested in music and in playing the piano since this latest lockdown, and his school will offer him one year’s tuition on an orchestral instrument next year, so we are talking quite a bit about which instrument he will be most interested in learning to play.

We bought Where Are All The Instruments: European Orchestra on Amazon for £8.99, but it is available with other book retailers.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: I Spy Music Instruments

This month’s Music Book Review is one aimed squarely at very young children whose parents want to introduce them to the names of musical instruments. The blurb on the back of the book says that it contains 20 puzzles with over 100 cool illustrations from A-Z.

I am not entirely sure what I expected when I bought this book- a lockdown purchase over the internet, so I didn’t look through it before I bought it – but I am not convinced that this was it.

The book does what it says on the tin really. You know the game I Spy, it goes along the lines of: I spy with my little eye, something beginning with….. and you say a letter. We have played this game with my eldest to pass the time especially on car trips, with my youngest valiantly trying to join in even though she was just 2 at the time. It’s a great game so I do understand why it is a good premise for a book like this.

There are 20 of the I spy puzzles – one for every letter of the alphabet. Some are combined into one puzzle on one page, others have their own page. Each puzzle has a question page where the author asks “I SPY [sic] with my little eye something beginning with….” and gives the letter(s) for that page. Then there are illustrations of various instruments including one beginning with the correct letter underneath:

You turn the page for the correct answer to the “puzzle”:

I mentioned above that there is an I SPY for every letter of the alphabet. To find instruments that start with every letter there are some more unusual instruments (to Western eyes) included. I did like this aspect of the book, but I couldn’t tell my children anything about some of them. I could guess if they were wind or string instruments from the picture but that was about it; where were the instruments from, what sort of music are they played in?

Of course there were plenty of more familiar instruments included.

Generally I thought the book was OK. I felt it missed a bit of a trick I thought in not giving any information about the instruments at all. I think if you are buying a book like this then you are probably interested in music and your children are, or you want them to be. Unsurprisingly a main feature of a musical instrument is what it sounds like, so why not give us at least a little bit of basic information about the instrument we have just “spotted” by telling us where the instrument is from? Is it played in a band, a group, solo? Is it a folk instrument? Anything.

We bought this book for £6.59 from Amazon, so it wasn’t an expensive book. It is aimed at very young children, it does get them looking at musical instruments and learning their names. So it is good for a first introduction to this subject in many ways. However, I personally think there are books that do this in a better way, they cost more, but at least let you hear what the instrument sounds like.

Music Book Review: Welcome to the Symphony

Music Book Review: Usborne Listen and Learn Musical Instruments

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: The 12 Engines of Christmas

It’s 1 December, so I feel it is appropriate for this week’s Music Book Review to be a Christmas book – this one is a version of the song 12 Days of Christmas.

The 12 days of Christmas is a superb song. It is, essentially a memory song. As you will know, if you are familiar with the song, each day your True Love brings you a gift. On the first day you are given a partridge in a pear tree. On the second day you are given another partridge and this time two turtle doves as well. On the third day, three French hens are added to two more turtle doves and another partridge and so on.

It is a good song for children to learn because of its repetitive nature – we learn through repetition, especially as small children – both the words and the melody are repetitive. It is good for young children to learn numbers as well, for obvious reasons.

The book is not a sound book, so it is up to you whether you read the words or sing them. I cannot help myself but sing it every time. The last time we read this book, which was in the middle of June this year – honestly children have no concept of an appropriate time for these things! – my son decided that he was going to sing most of the song , and that I should chime in with “5 holly wreaths”.

The 12 Engines of Christmas, as you can see from the front cover, is a re-writing of the song for fans of Thomas the Tank Engine. We went through quite the train obsession phase when my son was very young and everything was Thomas the Tank Engine based. We have had this book for about 4 years now, and as mentioned above, both children love to have it as their bedtime book no matter the time of the year. It is quite dog-eared now. It is a board book, so stands up well to small people trying to chew it and their general heavy handedness. There are large tabs along the top edge of the book to make it easier for small children to turn the pages by themselves, and each engine has their own page. It starts with the first day of Christmas “what did Thomas see?” (as Engine number 1 on the Island of Sodor, of course Thomas must go first) and works through 11 more engines and what Christmassy items they saw.

It stands up to the test of time as well. We got this during my son’s train obsession phase, but eve though he is now 6 he still enjoys getting the book out, though he now likes to sing along himself rather than just turn the pages or point out the trains.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Grandma is Overly Generous by Alex T Smith

This month’s Music Book Review had to be a Christmas book. Last year I reviewed the 12 Engines of Christmas, a Thomas the Tank Engine version of this festive favourite song, and this year I have found another brilliant book version of this song. To be honest, we have at least 3 book versions of this song that I can immediately think of, and I can never resist singing the book to and with the children rather than just read it with them.

The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Grandma is Overly Generous is written and illustrated by Alex T Smith.

The Song

The Twelve Days of Christmas, as well as being a favourite Christmas song, is a cumulative song. What on earth are cumulative songs? They are ones that exercise your memory, each verse building on the last one. You have to remember and sing the words from the previous verse before singing the next one.

No one really knows where the song comes from originally, but many think it may be French, and have come from a children’s memory game – like the game we often try to play in our car on long journeys where you go to the shops and each person buys more and more things each turn. I say try to play it, as with a 7 and 4 year old, the game is never very successful! In any case, the first written record of The Twelve Days of Christmas comes from a children’s book called Mirth Without Mischief published in 1780.

There are many different versions of The Twelve Days of Christmas, all with slightly different words, different gifts, and some versions have just 10 days rather than 12. The most well known version, and the one I know, comes from an arrangement of a traditional English folk melody written by Frederic Austin in the early 20th Century.

When are the 12 Days of Christmas?

The 12 days of Christmas run from Christmas Day on 25 December until 6 January. In the story of the nativity, the 12 days of Christmas go from the day Jesus Christ is born, until the visit of the Three Wise Men. I am not sure what the traditions are where you are reading this, but in the UK it is traditional to make sure you have removed your Christmas decorations by the 12th night, I have been brought up to believe that it is bad luck to keep the decorations up beyond 12th night. My husband would take them down on Boxing Day if he thought he could get away with it. He can’t!

Onto the book

Every family has different traditions when it comes to Christmas, and every family has different rules and traditions when it comes to gift giving at Christmas. My family has always been very generous at Christmas, probably especially my mum. So when I saw this book with its sub heading “or Grandma is Overly Generous”, I couldn’t help but smile and had to buy it! I am very glad that I did.

This is a really lovely retelling of the story/song. In this version the gifts come from Grandma rather than a True Love, which is highly appropriate and believable for children, even if some of the gifts themselves test children’s suspension of disbelief.

The book generally sticks pretty faithfully to the words of the original song but with a few notable alterations such as 10 rhinos racing, and the gift on the 12th day, which is probably my favourite given the rest of the song. I won’t spoil the book by telling you what it is here.

The book was written and illustrated by Alex T Smith who was the official World Book Day illustrator in 2014. At the end of the book Mr Smith explains that as Frederic Austin arranged the song with the tune it is now known for in the Edwardian period of UK history, he decided to set the book (and his illustrations) in this period. He has tried to be faithful to the fashions of the time in his beautiful illustrations.

I think the details I like best in here are the postmarks for each parcel, which give just a little hint of what that day’s new gift might be before you turn over and find out for yourself.

This is one of my favourite retellings of one of my favourite Christmas songs. It is definitely written with children in mind, given that it is Grandma rather than a True Love who is giving the gifts, but I don’t think there is really an age limit either upper or lower, for enjoying this book. Especially if you sing it together rather than just read it!

At the time of writing this review the book was available on Amazon priced at £6.84 (down from £9.99).

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Welcome to the Symphony

My Music Book Review for today is the sound book Welcome to the Symphony by Carolyn Sloan and illustrated by James Williamson.

It is an exploration of both the instruments that play in a Symphony Orchestra, and also the 5th Symphony by Ludwig van Beethoven. You almost certainly have heard this symphony before as it is very, very well known. If you would like to listen to it in full, you could listen to it on Spotify here:

The book is a sound book, so as you go through the pages there are prompts to press corresponding buttons on the book that demonstrate the sound of the violins, the cellos, the oboes or the trombones that go into making up a symphony orchestra. I don’t know about your children, but being able to press buttons and make noises when reading a book is just the best thing in the world ever. So a noise book is always a winner in this house. It’s also a great way to get the children enthused about a book about music. Music is all about what you can hear, so it makes perfect sense to have a book you can listen to as well as read.

There is an on/off switch on the back to save the batteries, you just have to remember to turn it off, something I don’t always do.

This book, goes further than talking about the instruments of the orchestra (which this book I have previously reviewed covers, as does this one), and also introduces your children to an amazing work. It explains what terms like melody and harmony mean, again giving examples for your children to listen to, and explains the main structure of the symphony. All of this is presented in very simple form so that its young readers can understand the concepts explained.

Music Book Review: First Book About the Orchestra

There are lovely illustrations with an adorable audience of mice.

I would say that this book is mainly aimed at younger children, so pre-schoolers or those just starting school, especially if you are reading the book with them. For developing readers the book is written in simple language so that young readers would be able to read the book independently. My 6 year old thoroughly enjoys the book and I have sometimes found him sat on his own reading the book, pressing the buttons and listening carefully to the examples given. It has prompted him to ask to listen to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. I would love to say that he sat transfixed listening to the music, and he did concentrate on it for about 5-10 minutes before getting something out to do while the music was on.

Music Book Review: Usborne Listen and Learn Musical Instruments

We bought this book from Amazon, and on the day of writing this blog post (because Amazon’s prices do change) it is for sale at a cost of £15.19.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle

This week’s music book review is the lovely story , The Bear, the Piano, the Dog and the Fiddle by David Lichfield.

This is a story about friendship, the friendship between Hector, the fiddle player, and Hugo, his dog.

At the start of the story we meet Hector, an older man who is a fiddle player. Hugo, his dog, is his biggest fan and travels with him as he plays his fiddle as a busker in town. As Hector gets older he plays his violin less and less, and spends more and more time at home. So Hugo picks up his violin.

Hugo proves to be a very good fiddle player and when Hector finds out he was jealous, but he decided to teach Hugo everything he knows about fiddle playing. Hugo becomes a better and better musician (practice makes perfect, after all!) and one day is approached by the famous piano playing bear (the subject of his own rather lovely book that I may review here one day) and Hugo leaves to join the bear on tour.

Hector’s reaction to Hugo’s talent and success is explored in the remainder of the book, and I won’t spoil the ending for you, other than to say it is a lovely book with, of course, a happy ending!

The themes of friendship, jealousy, hard work leading to success, all framed within a story about musicians are all explored within this book. The moral of the tale is not hammered home, as it can be with some stories, but it is introduced gently and resolved without it feeling like you are being hit over the head with “the lesson to learn”.

The author is also the book’s illustrator, and he is an illustrator first and foremost I believe.

I bought this for my son who was 5 at the time I bought it, but both children like listening to the story. It is fast becoming a favourite for my little girl.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: We’re Going On A Bear Hunt

Ostensibly the book We’re Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury would not appear to be a book that should be included in a series of reviews of books about music. However, the language in the book, the words used and the poetry of it is musical in itself.

Poetry and music are linked. The most obvious link between poetry and music is in song. Lyrics to songs are poems in their own right. Many composers set poets’ works to music, matching the rhythms of the music to the rhythm of the poem.

Poetry without music has rhythm, it has its own beat and when reading poetry you can feel the beat or pulse of the poem, just as you can with a piece of music. Poetry plays with words and the sounds they make, as music plays with sounds.

We’re Going On A Bear Hunt tells the story of a family who, one day decide to go out for a walk and on that walk they hunt for bears. As they roam, they encounter obstacles such as long grass, or a river or a snowstorm that they have to navigate. As they walk through the long grass it swishes and swashes; they splash and splosh through the river; they squelch and squerch through mud. They explore different natural materials that they have to pass through to go on their bear hunt, and while we know that the family would have experienced the look of the grass, the feel of it, the smell of it, this is evoked for the reader using sound.

Reading this book with my children, we often act it out – we go on a march through the house or in the garden and take plenty of time making and recreating the sounds in the book: swishing and swashing, or squelching and squerching (my children’s favourites!) We think about the sound of the word itself, the rhythm they make. It prompts me to ask the children to listen to the sounds around them: wind in the trees, the sounds of other children in the neighbourhood playing in their gardens, the sound of emergency vehicles at the top of the road (we live very close to a city centre so there are regularly emergency vehicles going past the top of our road).

This is not a book that has music as its subject matter, but it is a very musical book. It is also a fun book, and one we love reading.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Debi Gilori’s Nursery Rhymes

When I first had my son, my eldest, was home from the hospital,everyone had been to visit and we found ourselves alone for the first time, I thought I would sing to him. I was a musician and had spent a lot of time at school and Uni singing so I must know what to sing to him, right? In the fog of new motherhood, with the lack of sleep, I could not remember a single nursery rhyme to sing to him. Not one!

So I was very pleased when I was given this book by one of my friends. It was an anthology of nursery rhymes, pretty much all of the songs I then remembered my mum singing with me as a little girl. Just reading through the book reminded me of the songs I was reaching for to sing to him!

It is illustrated by Debi Gilori, the illustrations capturing the spirit of each nursery rhyme.

A little extra information about some of the songs is given- background to the songs, why they were written or how children used to dance or play along to them for example.

And a CD is included of all the songs in the book. You do not need to use the CD to enjoy the book, I have not spotted any extra information or songs on the CD at all, but it is a lovely extra to have. Some of the songs are sung on the Cd, and some spoken, there is a nice mix of the two, and Debi Gliori gives a nice introduction to the CD and how to use it to accompany the book.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Usborne Listen and Learn Musical Instruments

Today’s Music Book Review is Listen and Learn Musical Instruments from Usborne Books.

We do have quite a lot of Usborne books at home. They are quite fantastic for young children – and that is my experience so far as my eldest is 6 years old as I write this. My recommendations may change as my children get older. It is a rather different book than many of my other recommendations as there is no story to be told here at all. It looks a bit like a list of instruments. The book is actually meant to be listened to rather than read.

It gives children an opportunity to hear the sounds that different instruments make. The book consists of a number of different cards that have pictures of musical instruments on. To hear each instrument, you need to press the “go button” at the top of each page/card and then press on the picture of the instrument. The name of each instrument is given as well, and they are grouped into various categories – instruments that are played by hitting them, by blowing into them, by plucking their strings etc.

In addition to the set of wind instruments on the main page, a further 4 double-sided cards are included in a pocket each with 9 further instruments to listen to. To hear those instruments you slide the card into the keyboard frame, press “go” and select the instrument you want to listen to.

As with all sound books, there is an on/off switch so if your children will not leave it alone and it starts to drive you mad you can turn the sound off, and also to make sure the battery doesn’t go flat when you are not using it.

We really like this book, and like exploring the different instruments depicted – I had probably heard but never seen a shofar or a serpent before reading this book. Both my children like it – it involves pressing buttons, what is not to like?! And I chose to write about this boom today largely because my 6 year old found it yesterday and was playing around with it yesterday by himself.

The volume on the book is fairly low, which is great when listening to it at home. However, if you are using this as a resource in a group setting it only works on a one to one basis or very small group basis. I tried using this in a larger group setting once and it just did not work as it was too quiet to grab the children’s attention. One on one, though, it is a lovely guide to the sounds that different instruments make. I would highly recommend it.

And here it is in action with a couple of the pages in the book:

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Baby’s Bedtime Music Book

For today’s Music Book Review I have another lovely Usborne Books sound book, Baby’s Bedtime Music Book.

This is a lovely book to snuggle up with and read at bedtime just before sleep. It combines a little tale about the animals of Dreaming Valley getting ready for bed, settling in for the night and being serenaded by the owls of the valley who are playing beautiful lullabies to help their fellow animals drift off to sleep.

There are extracts from 5 different pieces of classical music included in the book with an easy to press and clearly labelled button on each page to hear the pieces. Even small children can press the button and get the music to play- there are some sound books where you have to press the button really hard to get any sound out of it at all and my children quickly give up with these books because they can’t get them to work by themselves. These books are different because they only need a light touch, and even at 2 my youngest was able to get the book to play for herself.

There is an on/off switch at the back of the book so that you don’t waste the battery and you can turn it off when you have had enough of the pieces! There are only 5 short extracts after all.

I won’t play them all here, but here is the cover page in action with an extract from Brahm’s Lullaby:

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: My Favourite Things

After the rain and storms of the last few days, I ended up reading and singing this book with my children. This book is basically a write up of the words to the song of the same name from the musical The Sound of Music.

I found this book on one of my previous visits to Foyles with my little girl. She was busy playing with the train set there and I had time to browse the shelves. When I was a girl myself I loved The Sound of Music, I still do to be honest! The songs have stayed with me my whole life and I often find myself singing them to the children, especially this one, the fun High on a Hill Lived a Lonely Goatherd and Doh a Deer. So when I saw this book I had to get it for the children.

The song is all about when something bad or scary happens, think of nice things and it will make you feel better. For anyone who doesn’t know the song or musical, the reference to the storms of last week is because in the film there is a thunderstorm. All the children of the house run in to the nanny Maria’s bedroom because they are scared of the storm. She talks to them a little about the storm and then they sing this song together and all feel better about it by the end of it.

When the dog bites,

When the bee stings.

When I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember my favourite thibgs

And then I don’t feel so bad

The book is illustrated by Daniel Roode, each page showing a different line from the song.

The book could be read through, and is a board book so is easy for small hands to turn the pages by themselves, or sung through. The illustrations capture the song beautifully so even your little ones who don’t read words yet, can read and understand the story for themselves. Inevitably I can’t help myself and sing the book to them, and lately my eldest especially has started to sing it to himself and to my youngest too. It’s really lovely watching them read it and sing it together.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: Usborne Peep Inside a Fairy Tale – The Nutcracker

Usborne Books have published a series of books – Peep Inside a Fairy Tale. These books tell the story of famous fairy tales, like The Nutcracker, simply for young children. They are all beautifully illustrated. As they are peep inside books there are little windows throughout the book where you can see through onto other pages, giving hints of what is on the next page, They use doorways, or snowflakes, or little mouse holes to give these little hints of what is on different pages.

The Nutcracker is the story of two children Fritz and Clara playing with their new Christmas presents under the Christmas Tree. Clara’s favourite toy is the Nutcracker, who could crack real nuts with his teeth. She carries on playing with her Nutcracker toy late into the night, and at the stroke of midnight she shrinks to the size of a doll, meets the Nutcracker and they have a series of adventures together.

The Nutcracker has been told countless times, and when I was a child I remember going to see Tchaikovsky’s ballet of The Nutcracker at the Birmingham Hippodrome, and watching it in the Disney film Fantastia. In my memory (though a child’s memory can be fallible) the Nutcracker ballet was on in the theatre every year. It was a feature of every Christmas, much like The Wizard of Oz, or Sound of Music being on every Easter.

This is a really nice version of the story. As mentioned above it is simply written for younger readers, the illustrations are great and tell the story as much as the prose. It is a lift the flap book as well, which again is always a hit with younger children, something that they can do for themselves, and something they can discover for themselves. It is a great introduction to the story, lovely to read at Christmas – or year round frankly; my children seem to like Christmas stories best in May or June!! – and when we are able to go back to the theatre together, this would be a very good introduction for children before they go to see the ballet for the first time.

Music Book Review

Music Book Review: First Book about the Orchestra

I bought this book for my little girl about a year or so ago. She was just over 2 at the time and she really liked just turning pages over. She also LOVED a noisy book, anything with buttons to press! Most of the noisy books in the house at the time had been bought originally for my eldest and he loved to remind her that they were bought for him, so I wanted to get her a noisy book of her very own.

In those days, you know before a global pandemic hit us and you could vary your days with little ones by taking them out of the house, and even to the shops, we liked to go to Foyles in Birmingham. I have taken both of my children there because there is a lovely children’s department that has (had?) a Brio train set for the children to play with while you were browsing. So we went quite regularly. I saw this book there and loved it.

Happily my little girl has also loved this book, and it has proven to be a great book for her to look at independently as well.

Published by Usborne Books, this is a guide to the orchestra. The book goes through the different sections of the orchestra – strings, woodwind, brass, even timpani (large tuned drums), and plays Hungarian Dance no 5 by Brahms. Showing children what those instruments sound like. At the end of the book the whole orchestra is brought together to play a short excerpt of. And the role of the conductor is briefly explained.

There is a round button, clearly marked, on each page to press to play the music, and this is easy even for small hands to press – we have had some noisy books in the past where you have had to press really very hard to get any sound to come out, and the book has quickly been abandoned.

Best of all, because we all know that noisy books can very quickly become a pain, there is an on/off switch at the back of the book for when it just gets a bit too much!

It is a lovely book that I would highly recommend, and a nice way to start introducing orchestral music and the instruments of the orchestra to very young children. Here it is in action: