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Violin and Cello

Violin and Cello

Violin and Cello

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Violin and Cello

Catherine Greer

Joanna Bartel

Alexander Lau

EK Books, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9781922539274

While a high brick wall might separate the balconies of the two apartments and prevent the players from seeing each other, it doesn’t stop the music. One played a violin and the other a cello, and while each practised alone and at their own pace, both lonely, the music mingled.  And then the violinist had an idea and sent a secret message to the cello player.

Cello from a backpack.

Violin from a case

Each musician still played at their own pace.

It was tricky.

It took some time.

Then music flew from the violin and from the cello, too.  

And then the cellist made a paper plane and sent her own secret message to her new friend.  And together they played music from their balconies and connected many more than themselves. 

Learning and playing music can be a solitary activity, bringing pleasure to the music-maker but even greater isolation than has been enforced over recent times.  With between 45% of children (Australia) and 70% of children (UK) currently playing a musical instrument and even more (as many as 9 out of 10) wanting to learn -most beginning their classical music education with piano, violin or cello lessons- this is a story that will resonate with many young readers and show them that music is indeed a universal language and can indeed  “act like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens” as Maria Von Trapp declared in The Sound of Music. 

The score for the allegro and adagio movements of “The Mystery Friends”, the music which brings the children together, is  an original duet for violin and cello composed for the book by Australian composer, Alexander Lau, are printed in the book as well as being available via the links in this review.  Thorough teachers’ notes are also available so that even the most non-musical person like me can bring this book to life well beyond the words and pictures on the page. 

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tatty Mouse Rockstar

Hilary Robinson

Mandy Stanley

Catch A Star, 2022

16pp., board book., RRP $A14.99

 9781922326553

Tatty Mouse wants to play in her brother’s band, but given they already have a guitarist, a saxophonist and a singer, she has to find a place.  Known as the ‘mend-it, make-it mouse”, and so, after consulting a book she decides on maracas and drums and sets to, using everyday objects from her home to make her own musical instruments.

The board book format lends itself perfectly to a lift-the-flap experience for our youngest readers as they follow Tatty Mouse’s instructions, perhaps making their own versions as they do because everything she uses is readily available.  

Catch A Star continues to recognise the need for even our youngest readers to have engaging stories that are sturdy enough in their own hands so they can mimic the reading of those who read to them, a critical step in becoming a reader, and this is no exception. The text is simple but the story can be followed without being able to read it because the pictures are colourful and clearly amplify what the words say, while the lift-the-flap and the invitation to do so adds to the engagement.  Above all, this format shows little ones the value of the constancy of print – rather than being a fleeting image on a screen, it is one they can return to again and again, not just to enjoy Tatty’s inventiveness but also to explore their own. 

 

100 Things to Know About Music

100 Things to Know About Music

100 Things to Know About Music

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

100 Things to Know About Music

Alex Frith, Alice James, Jerome Martin, Lan Cook

 Dominique Byron, Federico Mariani, Shaw Nielsen, Parko Polo

Usborne, 2022

128pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

 9781474996730

Continuing this popular series which includes titles such as 100 Things to Know About Science,  100 Things to Know About Saving the Planet 100 Things to Know About Numbers, Computers & Coding, 100 Things to Know About Food,  100 Things to Know About the Human Body, 100 Things to Know About Space, 100 Things to Know About the Oceans, 100 Things to Know About Planet Earth and 100 things to Know About History, young musicians can now investigate which tunes could save a life, and which should come with a health warning; how  talking drums tell the history of Africa; what happens in your brain when you listen to music; the part that termites play on creating didgeridoos and even how parachuting pianos into war zones helped win World War II! 

Without a contents page but with an extensive index, this is a dip-and-delve book that can lead the reader down all sorts of interesting paths depending on where they open the book.  Who knew that playing music to plants could make them grow faster or that sleigh bells and harmonicas were the first instruments into space?

With lots of illustrations and easily accessible facts in small chunks, this is the perfect book ( and series) to get reluctant readers who prefer non fiction to consolidate their skills as they  become engrossed in stuff they didn’t even know they didn’t know yet want to discover more about!  

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

Playing At The Border

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Playing At The Border

Joanna Ho

Teresa Martinez

HarperCollins US, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780062994547

“Feet planted on the soil of one nation, eyes gazing at the shores of another, Yo-Yo Ma played a solo accompanied by an orchestra of wind and water.” 

On April 13.2019, on the  US banks of the Rio Grande he played a piece of music hundreds of years old to an audience on the opposite banks in Mexico to show that building bridges is so much better than building walls.  

But this is more than just a story of one man playing a cello alone to be heard by a few – this is the story of a renowned cellist, himself a blend of cultures as he was born to Chinese parents in France and raised in the US. Because his fingers were too small for a double bass, as a little child he chose the cello – and its particular blend of international origins is woven into both the story and the music.  And from its strings comes the music dancing ‘over rocks and rivers and walls into the sky”, born in Germany 300 years before, lost,  then found in Spain, and renewed in the US to unite those who had once been one but who were now separated…

Connecting cultures and countries through music was Yo-Yo Ma’s ambition when he began the Bach Project in 2018, reviving the rare cello solos which “create the sound of harmonising melodies on one instrument” there was as much symbolism as there was entertainment on that day in 2019 when the people of two nations momentarily joined together again, in defiance of the rhetoric and actions of the then POTUS. And in Johanna Ho‘s text, which is as lyrical as the music itself, we discover that there were many more than just two nations involved in making it happen. 

Piano Fingers

Piano Fingers

Piano Fingers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piano Fingers

Caroline Magerl

Walker Books, 2022

32pp., hbk., RRP $A26.99

9781760652616

Isla and Bea are two sisters who share a love of music. Big sister Isla plays the violin (her honey fog machine) but Bea is waiting for her music to start. She knows it will because she comes from such a musical family but somehow binking on a triangle (no matter how dramatic it can be at the right place) just isn’t enough. And then she discovers the piano, “on tiny gold wheels… a baby mountain, smelling gently of mouse.”  

But even though it is big, it still doesn’t play the sweet music that Bea craves and so she declares, “The world is not ready for my genius”.

But, with the help of Maestro Gus, the cat ghost of the piano, Bea will make her sparkling debut and she and Isla will at last make beautiful music together. 

Over the years, Magerl has offered us some stunning stories including Nop, Maya & Cat and Hasel and Rose and this new one is no exception. Subtly exploring the theme of finding one’s own talent, the text is as lyrical as the music from  Isla’s honey fog machine and the illustrations as light as a touch on the keyboard. 

From one who, despite years of lessons and hours of practice, still has dreams of mastering the piano that has pride of place in the lounge,  this is an inspirational story that all hope is not lost.  Perhaps today is the day I will find my own Maestro Gus – perhaps not.  When it comes to music I don’t have the belief, the expectation, the tenacity or the  perseverance of Bea but young readers will enjoy her story and be encouraged as they realise that even those with natural talent (once they discover what it is) need to learn and practise and persevere.  Something that many will need to hear at the start of this new learning year. 

Twelve Little Festive Frogs

 

 

 

 

Twelve Little Festive Frogs

Twelve Little Festive Frogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twelve Little Festive Frogs

Hilary Robinson

Mandy Stanley

Catch A Star, 2021 

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

The twelve little frogs who taught our young readers the initial poses of yoga are back in their version of the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas.  

However, their interpretation involves a giant game of pass the parcel in the woodlands, one that can go on and on even after the first 12 days! Like the song, and its predecessor, this is a counting book with lots of opportunities to predict what might come next as well as counting those who are already there. 

While it is set in the snowy regions of the northern hemisphere, it is an opportunity to talk about why what the frogs do is so different to our little ones’ experiences and perhaps even create an Australian version which would give it a wider audience and a meaningful activity for those last wind-down days!

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

 

 

 

 

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Williamson’s Christmas in Australia

John Williamson

Mitch Vane

Puffin, 2017

32pp., pbk., RRP $A14.99

9780143507178

Christmas in Australia – time for families to get together and of, course, the perfect family photo for posterity.  But getting everyone together at the same time is not as easy as it sounds. And given the separations of the last few Christmases and the reunions taking place for many this year. family photographs will be high on the agenda so both the book and the song will echo in the minds of many.

This is an hilarious, rollicking tune, probably known to every Australian school student, brought to life in picture book format through the talents of Mitch Vane.  As families gather together as the big day draws closer, no doubt its scenarios will be played out in real life in many backyards and children will be heard singing the song.

A must-have in any Christmas collection and for sending overseas to those who want to know about a summer Christmas as well.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Clement C. Moore

Raquel Martin

Magic Cat, 2021

24pp., hbk (including music box mechanism). $A44.95

9781913520298

“Twas the night before Christmas

When all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Not even a mouse…”

Are there any more recognisable words than these at this time of the year?  This poem, by Clement Clarke Moore (although he called it “A Visit from St Nicholas”) was first published almost 200 years ago on December 23, 1823, has become the perennial favourite for Christmas Eve as it  stirs the imagination of generation after generation. From it we get the names of the reindeer and all sorts of other images that endure today.

While it has been published in many formats over that time and illustrated in many media and styles, the text remains the same and so it is with this new version.  However, this one  includes a wind-up music box mechanism that allows the reader to listen to the music of  Deck the Halls, another Christmas tradition, this one Welsh and dating back to the 16th century although the English lyrics weren’t written till the mid-19th century. 

An opportunity to round off your Christmas Countdown combining two classics in one. 

The Nutcracker

 

 

 

 

The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nutcracker

Lily McArdle

Bodil Jane

Magic Cat, 2021

24pp., hbk (including music box mechanism). $A44.95

9781913520212

In 1891, Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky began working on his third ballet, the first two being the magical Swan Lake, my personal favourite, and the second, The Sleeping Beauty.    This one was The Nutcrackeran adaptation into music and dance of the original 1816 story be E.T.A. Hoffman. in which young Marie Stahlbaum’s favorite Christmas toy, the Nutcracker, comes alive and, after defeating the evil Mouse King in battle, whisks her away to a magical kingdom populated by dolls.

Part of the score for the ballet is the famous Waltz of the Flowers  and it is this which sets this version of the story aside from others because the book includes a wind-up music box mechanism that allows the reader to listen to the music as well as the words. So while the story is a somewhat abridged version of the original (although it covers all the main aspects) it will inspire many to not only seek out the story but also the music and the ballet.

It used to be the Sugar Plum Fairy in her tutu that garnered all the attention but now nutcrackers are becoming a common part of Australian Christmas decorations so sharing this story will add extra meaning to the Christmas dinner festivities, particularly if it is also the choice of the back ground music! A stunning gift for any budding ballerina. 

 

Cato’s Can Can

Cato’s Can Can

Cato’s Can Can

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cato’s Can Can

Juliet Sampson

Katrina Fisher

Ford Street, 2021

32pp., pbk., RRP $A16.95

9781925804768

Cato the cockatoo loves to dance. Each day he bops and rocks and kicks and stomps all by himself.  He would dearly love to find a dance partner but none of the local birds are interested.  But then, throughout the course of a week he spies lots of dancers who move just like his different bird-world friends – spinning like a lyrebird, bopping like lorikeets, snapping like lyrebirds, leaping like brolgas, tapping like grebes, hopping and prancing like bowerbirds – but even though he shows off his moves, they disappear without noticing him.

So, instead of showing off his moves, he decides to follow them – and everyone gets a surprise…

This is a charming story that celebrates both the unique movement of bird species and the magic of dance. Using a days-of-the-week and cumulative-counting format, both Cato and the reader focus on the various forms of dance that humans have developed to bring joy to themselves and others making a delightful read for all those who love to dance. No doubt they would be able to add other genres and similes such as waltzing and gliding like swans.  As well as being great for investigating similes, bird movements and dance types, it would also be fun to explore the sort of music that would accompany each, and perhaps even find examples of each type. 

So much more than a one-off read!