Allen & Unwin, 2014
hbk., 32pp., RRP $A22.99
It’s been a strange week – one of those ones where something you rarely think about keeps popping up in front of you. No one on this planet could ever describe me as musical – when that talent was given out I was not only not behind the door, but I wasn’t even in the room – but for the third time in three days there has been something significant about music that has caught my attention. Firstly, this poster from The Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra about the importance of music in a child’s life came through my FB feed and I had to share it with my teaching colleagues, all of whom are talented enough to act on it.
Then there was a news report about research about the effect of music on literacy learning and today, the review book on top of my pile is called Let’s Play and is a delightful introduction to the instruments of the orchestra by Gabriel Alborozo. I’m certain the elves were in my office last night and moved it up because clearly it was meant to be the next one!
In Let’s Play a group of very young children are introduced to the orchestra by a man who looks like the epitome of a stern conductor but who actually is much gentler than that as he isn’t bothered by the children moving and clinging to him as he takes them on a journey through the percussion section, the brass, strings and woodwind, and, finally, the piano and harp. His love and passion is clear and the children are just as fascinated as each gets to try one of the instruments. However, this is not a dry, factual, encyclopaedic explanation. As they go to each section, there’s a comment to each musician that adds an element of humour and individuality and the superb illustrations which tell the real story and lift it into the realm of the special and unique. While the conductor and the children are line drawings, the instrument is in colour and each page has the sound it makes interpreted in shape and colour, until the whole becomes joined in a celebration of both colour and sound which is “Magnifico!”
There are so many reasons this book should be in your collection – it’s the perfect textual extension to Prokofiev’s’s Peter and the Wolf as well as the many online sites which enable students to hear the sounds as they see the instruments. (My favourite has always been Energy in the Air: Sounds of the Orchestra created by two young boys for the Thinkquest Jr project but there are many others.) It is also the perfect stimulus to having the students interpret the sounds of the instruments and musical pieces into their own art pieces, which might then lead on to their thinking about the sorts of instruments or compositions which might accompany pieces of literature.
While it’s clear the target audience for the text is early childhood, in the hands of an imaginative teacher it could be used throughout the school. A treasure indeed.