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Category results for 'music'.

Silent Night is one of my favorite Christmas carols, and I'm sure many Christmas music lovers would say the same thing. As a kid, I watched a movie called "Silent Mouse," which told the story of Silent Night, while focusing on the mouse that supposedly chewed a hole in the organ bellows. I remember one particular character in the movie was quite upset that a guitar was used in church instead of the organ, but I have no idea whether that tidbit was made up for the movie or not.

Either way, Silent Night: A Christmas Carol Is Born tells the story of how the carol came to be (without making mention of any anti-guitar crusaders). It happened in a small town in Austria in 1818, and it was Father Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber who composed the words and melody of the song that would become one of the most loved Christmas carols of the next 200 years.

This book walks us through the disappointment at the loss of the organ and details the imagined conversations between the two men who got together to bring a special song to their congregation that Christmas Eve. While the story is not highly dramatic, I very much enjoyed it, and found it poignant and evocative of the quiet contemplative nature of the carol. What would it have been like to be there on that night to hear its first performance?

The book includes the first verse of Silent Night (as well as musical notation) at the appropriate point in the story. There is also an author's note with a few more details about the people and place surrounding the carol's birth.

Scrounged From: Our local library

Format: Hardcover
Author: Maureen Brett Hooper
Illustrator: Kasi Kubiak
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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Our family has very much enjoyed the first Story Orchestra book: Four Seasons in One Day, which features music from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons (see my review here).

So I was pretty excited when I saw that there would be another entry in this series: The Nutcracker! I was not disappointed. Like the first book, it features a sturdy cover with bright, textured illustrations, and a back cover that plays quality snippets of music when you press the musical note that corresponds to the correct portion of the cover. In the beginning this can be a bit difficult since you are pressing through all the pages, but it gets easier as it goes. Like the first book, I plan to keep this one up high so my young kids can learn how to treat it properly before they play with it unsupervised.

The story provides busy, colorful illustrations and a narrative that follows the Nutcracker ballet -- from Clara eagerly anticipating her Uncle Drosselmeyer's arrival, to her throwing her slipper at the mouse king to vanquish him (I was glad that part was included!) and being whisked away to the Land of Sweets. Of course, a book can't fully do the ballet justice, but by including small parts of the music, it is able to add to the summary of the text to make it a bit more magical. 

The last page includes a brief bio of Peter Tchaikovsky (whose illustrated form looks suspiciously like Uncle Drosselmeyer -- or vice versa), as well as some additional information about each of the ten segments of music that are featured. This is definitely a holiday treasure, and can help young children appreciate the ballet even before they're old enough to sit through the whole thing.

Scrounged From: Amazon

Format: Hardcover
Author/illustrator: Jessica Courtney-Tickle
Pages: 24
Content Advisory: None

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I was pleased to come across The Real Mother Goose Book of Christmas Carols at a flea market (and in good condition, too), because it's a great addition to our Christmas-themed literature. While we have a hymnal or two somewhere, this is a much more accessible way for children to encounter the words to traditional Christmas carols. 

Each carol shows the first verse/chorus with sheet music (hymnal style), while the complete text is included in verse form after that. (I really appreciate this since I don't read music so the words are easier to read this way.) Before the carol text, there is an introduction which describes where the carol is from, and approximately when it was written and by whom (if known). There are a few here whose backstories were familiar to me, but others that I learned about for the first time.

Most of the older, traditional favorites are included here -- Silent Night, What Child is This, O Come All Ye Faithful, Joy to the World, etc. Most are religious in nature but there are a few fun ones (Jingle Bells, Deck the Hall, etc.) that are not. 

It was nice to see some diversity in the people in the illustrations here, which is not something I would have necessarily expected from a Real Mother Goose book (this was published a lot later than the nursery rhyme book though).

My only real complaint is that there are a couple carols here (O Christmas Tree; O Come O Come Emmanuel) which are not the versions I'm used to, and I assume these are simply alternate translations. However, I listen to an awful lot of Christmas music, and I don't think I've yet heard anyone record this version of O Come O Come Emmanuel -- it's too bad a less popular version (again, assuming my experience is typical) was chosen. 

Either way, this is a great book to have if you love traditional Christmas carols, whether you read music or not.

Scrounged From: Our local flea market

Format: Hardcover
Author: Laurence Schorsch
Illustrator: Lynn Adams
Pages: 64
Content Advisory: None

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Mr. Mergler, Beethoven, and Me is a sweet story about a girl and her father who have a chance meeting with Daniel Mergler, a respected piano teacher, near the end of his life. It's written in first person from the perspective of the girl (who is not named in the book), and she describes how she came to have piano lessons from Mr. Mergler. 

Mr. Mergler has a bust of Beethoven on his piano, which has been there for decades. The girl thinks he looks angry, but over time, as she learns more and more about the technique and magic of music, she sees him in a more friendly light. 

The illustrations are lovely, using gentle, subdued tones, and portraying the teaching of music as growth of plants.

After reading this story, I immediately wondered whether or not it was true. The end notes give a brief biography of Beethoven and Daniel Mergler, but told nothing about the girl or her parents -- but the story seems oddly specific to be fictional. This led me to Mr. Mergler's Gift, a short documentary film made in Canada, which identifies the girl in the story as Xin Ben, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. This book appears to be based on the documentary, and since it's a documentary, that answers my question as to whether this book is based on a true story.

I really enjoyed this wonderful picture of the power of music, and the tribute to the love and guidance that music teachers show to their students.

(Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: David Gutnick
Illustrator: Mathilde Cinq-Mars
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: Mr. Mergler has passed away by the end of the story, though the details of death are not given.

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If you're not already familiar with violinist Joshua Bell, but think his name sounds familiar, it might be because of an interesting experiment he participated in about ten years ago, which involved playing his $3.5 million violin in a crowded subway station to see how many people would stop and listen. The Washington Post has more about that here.

But that's not what this book is about -- The Dance of the Violin is about Joshua as a young boy, and the story focuses on his decision to play a very difficult piece of music in a competition when he was twelve years old.

What I really like about this story is that it involves him making a mistake, but then stopping and asking to start again. It doesn't focus on "who wins" or on doing everything perfectly (though additional information about the context of this event is given at the end of the book). 

I was really inspired as I read about Joshua deciding to try again after his mistake. As a perfectionist, I know how easy it is to fall into the trap of thinking I'm better off not doing something than risking a failure (even a small one). Joshua's attitude is commendable and a great example of taking pride and joy in one's efforts (and delighting in music itself) rather than aiming solely for a win -- and that one flub obviously hasn't stopped him from having a wonderful career since then! 

(Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.)

Scrounged From: NetGalley

Format: Kindle
Author: Kathy Stinson
Illustrator: Dušan Petričić 
Pages: 32
Content Advisory: None

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