Archive for the ‘composer studies’ 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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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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