I recently wrote a post entitled, Get Kids Hooked on Classical Music, wherein I reviewed a wonderful children’s book, (and accompanying CD), which features the music and life story of the great composer, Franz Schubert. The book is a little treasure trove of pictures and stories that make the discovery of the life history and musical works of this composer an enjoyable and enriching experience. The CD features high-quality recordings of some of Schubert’s best pieces, and a narration of the text.
The Schubert book is part of an excellent series, First Discovery – Music. The books are designed to introduce kids to the world’s most influential composers. I’m happy that the publisher has asked me to review several more books in this collection.
Exposing children to the sounds of classical music, (as with any genre of music), is part of a well-rounded global education as it provides insight into other cultures and fosters appreciation of diversity. Check out these twelve benefits of music education.
Once children have been exposed to the wonderful sounds classical music, the next step is to dig deeper into the history of the music and its pioneers. However, elementary-level teaching materials in this arena are a rare find. Even more rare are books that focus on individual composers and specific details about their particular lives. That is why I love the First Discovery series books and CDs — they are a delightfully engaging way for children to enjoy the music, and the history behind it — which will pique their interest and open their minds and hearts to this wonderfully rich category of music!
Included in all of the books are lovely illustrations, (a combination of drawings, photos and famous paintings), and biographical data about each composer. Every book comes with an audio CD which is a narrated version of the story, and high-quality recordings of the featured composer’s music.
Another fun element about the series is that there are the little inserts on every other page which provide additional information about the composers, music and related historical facts. Below, I’ve outlined some of the interesting details in four of the books contained in the First Discovery: Music collection.
Henry Purcell (First Discovery: Music) by Marielle Khoury
With this book, children get a look into Purcell’s fascinating life beginning with his childhood in London. He grew up in the shadow of Westminster Abbey on the north bank of the River Thames. When Purcell was very young his father died, and London was struck with the Great Plague. A year later, a massive fire ravaged the city. Purcell went to music school and went on to become a court musician like his father and uncle. They played and sang at fancy parties held at the palace of King Charles II. Purcell became a well-known and much appreciated musician at the tender age of 18. Later in life, Purcell wrote music for the theater—a mixture of instrumental pieces, songs, and dances.
Fryderyk Chopin (First Discovery: Music) by Catherine Weill
In this book, kids will learn that Chopin was a child prodigy and began playing the piano at age five. By the time he was eight he was playing for the royalty. In his teen years, Chopin became a famous pianist and composer in Poland. Eventually, he moved to Paris and became a renowned piano instructor. Chopin is credited with developing the sound of the modern piano.
Claude Debussy (First Discovery: Music) by Pierre Babin
This book introduces readers to Debussy’s early childhood which is quite turbulent. His father is sent to prison for taking part in the revolution, and his mother does not look after him well. He is eventually sent to live with his godmother in Cannes, France and begins piano lessons. Later, Debussy returns to Paris and when he is ten, he has won a place at the Paris Conservatoire, a world-renowned music school. As a student, Debussy is rebellious does not like to be told what to do. In spite of his troubles he loved to play the piano and it was his favorite way to express himself. He won many high awards for his music and went on to compose many famous works for piano, including the beautiful “Claire de Lune.” It is said that the way Debussy wrote for piano made it sound like a different instrument.
Antonio Vivaldi (First Discovery: Music) by Olivier Baumont
Children will be captivated by Vivaldi’s unique life story. He was born in beautiful Venice, Italy on the same day that an earthquake shook the lagoon city. Vivaldi loved listening to his father, who was a baker and barber, play the violin. His father eventually teacher Vivaldi how to play the violin. He begins to write his own music at age thirteen. At fifteen Vivaldi begins religious training and becomes a priest to support his poor family. This allows him plenty of time to write music and play his violin. Vivaldi becomes a very well-known composer for his very expressive and emotional works. He goes on to compose over 400 concertos for various instruments, and over forty successful operas.
I highly recommend this series for parents and teachers of children ages 6 to 11. The authors do an excellent job of weaving history, music, culture and storytelling into a enchanting experience that will help spark a lifetime of love and appreciation for classical music.