Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Story of the Orchestra

The Story of the Orchestra

Arthur Levine
Illustrator:  Meredith Hamilton 
Nonfiction with audio CD
For ages 5 to 10
Black Dog and Leventhal, 2001   ISBN: 1579121489

We are going to take voyage into the world of music. First there are the composers to become aquainted with, and then we are going to take a tour of the orchestra.

In the first section of the book, Robert Levine explores the history of music in an interesting and accessible way, making the subject approachable, and making the lives of the composers interesting. Did you know, for example, that Beethoven was deaf when he composed his famous Ninth Symphony, or that Debussy had real horns on his head? Each biography includes a brief description of the composer’s life, notes about the composer’s work, and some fascinating little known facts about the personal life of each person.

Each page also includes a reference to piece of music that the reader can listen to as he or she reads the book. Thus on the Tchaikovsky page we can play track number eight and listen to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Notes help the listener understand the piece and grasp its significance in the world of music.

In the second section we get to ‘meet’ the instruments in the orchestra. There are many interesting facts to learn. For example, did you know that the triangle has been in use since ancient times, and that the saxophone is a hybrid of the clarinet and the oboe? Again, there are pieces of music to accompany each instrumental portrait, which showcase the instrument’s sounds and attributes.

This book would make a wonderful introduction to music and would serve as an excellent tool for teachers.