Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

We are currently in the middle of a Beethoven unit in our homeschool.  There are quite a few books that I found that have enhanced our studies.  But one in particular was a flop. I don’t even have a picture.

The Value of Giving:  The Story of Beethoven is just such a bizarre story I’m not sure where to begin.  It’s from a series of “ValueTales” by Ann Donegan Johnson. The illustrations are on the creepy side, very comical faces, which can be fine, these just seem more like the Sunday Comics.  The story is about Beethoven’s childhood and growing up with a drunk, sometimes abusive father.  Ludwig makes up an imaginary cat as a friend and stumbles through life being teased by others and just trying to write the music he heard in his head.

It could be a decent story.  But somehow he became the go-to person in history to teach kids about giving????  I’m at a loss.

Here’s the quote from the last page of the book:

“Of course not everyone can give the world great music, as Beethoven did.  But sooner or later, everyone has the opportunity to give something to make someone else happier.  Your gifts may be very simple, but if they make someone else happy, you will probably be happier too.”

Oh, I get it now.

Up next:  books about Beethoven that are worth reading.

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Last night we read another of Margaret Hodges great legend books.  Silent Night:  The Song and its Story is about how the much-loved Christmas carol was written and how its popularity spread.

We read about a little church in Austria whose organ bellows breaks just before Christmas Eve Mass.  The priest sets about writing a homily and instead comes up with the words to the carol.  The church musician sets them to music and before the Mass starts they sing it together with a simple guitar accompaniment.

The story goes on to tell how the song was popularized by a family of singers later on, but no one knew the source, until a connection with the musician was later discovered and the mystery solved.  The song was eventually taken to America and translated into English.

Then Hodges goes on to give a few examples of how the song was used amidst war time to give snippets of peace to soldiers.

I have no proof for the authenticity of this story or the events Hodges tells about in war time.  But this isn’t the only source I’ve heard some of those stories, so there is probably some basis of truth in them.  The Classical Kids Christmas cd also recalls similar events.

Silent Night is not a short story as far as children’s books go.  It’s fairly long and some pages are only text.  It is definitely a good read aloud for older children.  My 6 yo was interested in it but it was a bit drawn out for the 4 yo.

Overall it’s another top notch book done by Hodges.

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In our homeschool we are in the midst of a unit on Mozart.  We have found some great picture books, read alouds, and easy reader books to use for this study.  I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight just one.  In the previous composer study I highlighted a book about Haydn that was based on a true story from his life.  In this case, Mozart finds a Melody by Stephen Costanza is rather fantastical but fun to imagine nonetheless. 


In this story, Mozart is on a time crunch to come up with a new symphony and is drawing a blank.  He gets some help from his pet bird who escapes the cage and flies throughout the city.  Then the sounds of the city become further inspiration for his symphony.  Opening night comes, and he finds great success with his new piano concerto.


There are great children’s books to introduce kids to Mozart and his music, and likely you can find them in your library.  For a more complete list, check out “Mozart” in My Google Library.

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In our homeschool, we are using Robert Levine’s Story of the Orchestra book and cd to give an introduction to a chronology of major composers.  We take 2 weeks to study and read about each composer.  Tuesday, we listen to the selection and read from the book, then throughout the week we read other books about the composer and often have music playing during our school time by that composer.  Eventually I will have a comprehensive list of children’s books in My Google Library to refer back to.  But for today I wanted to focus on one of our favorite books for composer study so far.  I am always in awe of authors and illustrators who can take one small event or fact from a famous person’s life and turn it into a beautiful and engaging story and illustrations for children.

Anna Harwell Celenza has written one such book, The Farewell Symphony. It also includes a cd to listen to the symphony referred to in the book.  The story tells of Haydn and his orchestra who were tired and grumpy from having to be away from their families for extended time while their prince needed them at his beck and call at his summer home.  He kept them longer and longer into the autumn so Haydn hatched a plan to write a symphony to perform that would accurately convey their feelings to the prince.

My kids enjoyed the antics of the symphony and the hilarity of mocking a prince’s lousy dancing skills through an orchestral piece.  After reading the book, we listened to the beginning of each movement of the symphony and the kids could pick out the different parts that the book described.

A wonderful book to introduce kids to a famous composer and instill an appreciation for his music.

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