Nonfiction Monday: Welcome to the Symphony by Carolyn Sloan
Welcome to the Symphony
By Carolyn Sloan
Illustrated by James Williamson
I’ve never felt the need to review a book with sounds on this blog before. Push a button, Elmo giggles – I get the appeal. Most don’t beg for an in-depth examination. But Welcome the the Symphony is different. A book with sounds that doesn’t just entertain, but informs as well. So while it falls into that toy/movable category (librarians, take note), it’s a unique book I want to share. A trip to the symphony in book form.
Hello, and welcome to the Symphony! Please take your seats. The concert is about to begin.
The house is packed. The orchestra will be performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor. But not all the concertgoers are human – three talkative mice are also ready to take in the show. Leading up to the first note, and throughout the performance, the mice discuss all aspects of the orchestra. From concepts like pitch and tone, to the various sections (strings, brass, etc.), to more complex ideas, like how a symphony theme is repeated in different ways throughout the piece. It’s a more thorough examination than you might expect, and well-suited for the intended audience.
Books with sounds – libraries often shy away from carrying them – too breakable, too much fuss. And often, the sounds are superfluous – a nice addition, but an addition nonetheless. In Welcome to the Symphony, the sounds are essential. They work with the text to provide an experience that informs readers. What does a viola sound like? How does it compare to a violin? How does a melody sound different from a harmony? Welcome to the Symphony provides answers through sound. It should also be noted that the book is designed with clear access to the battery compartment, making swapping out a dead battery a fairly straightforward affair.
With wide brushstrokes and a broad uses of color, the illustrations ably serve the text. While a bit generic for my taste, the loose lines and bright colors do evoke the feeling of a night at the symphony.
If you’re going to have some books with sounds on hand, consider adding this to your ranks. An exploration of music with the music included. A wonderful introduction to the world of classical music.
Review copy from the publisher.
About Travis Jonker
Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.
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