Picture Book Review ~ Books About Music

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. 

April is National Poetry Month. As a teacher I always pulled out the anthologies and did poet profiles and had my students create poems of their own based on popular styles and forms. But it wasn’t until I was working as a librarian that I made the connection between poetry and music (I know, duh!) So, when April rolls around now I try to make an effort to at least point out the connection especially since so many people think of poetry as being either indecipherable or too academic or in some other way un-relatable. So, here are a few books about music (some with lyrics that can be appreciated as poetry and one without lyrics at all.) And I’d love for you to share your favorites with me in the comments below!

When The Rite of Spring ballet was first presented to audiences in 1913 it was so different from anything people had heard or seen an actual riot broke out in the theater. Some people loved it and some people hated it and it continues to be divisive to this day. This book tells the story of how it all came to be.

Igor Stravinsky was a successful composer who had already revolutionized music with his unusual uses of rhythms and dissonance. Vaslav Nijinsky was a highly celebrated ballet dancer. But when the two met, their individual talents seemed to expand. Nijinsky choreographed the dancing to Stravinsky’s music, both using heavy Russian influences in honor of their home country.

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Rite of Spring though I love some of Stravinsky’s other work and I can only imagine what it must have been like to hear it (and see it) all for the first time. I loved learning about these two men and can definitely appreciate their influence on musical history. There’s some great back matter here too including photos of the men and the dancers in their costumes. There’s also a great note on the illustrations which are bright and a little unconventional, a perfect fit for the text.

 

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet and One Extraordinary Riot

Written and Illustrated by: Lauren Stringer

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books, 2013

Age Range: 7-11

Rating: 4/5

 

Simon and Garfunkel have long been one of my musical inspirations. I grew up listening to my parent’s vinyl copies of Sounds of Silence and Bridge Over Troubled Waters over and over, watching their Central Park concert on TV and even seeing them in concert in person when they toured a few years ago. So I was beyond thrilled to hear about this book and wasn’t disappointed.

Each spread gives the reader a rich illustration accompanying a free verse mini-chapter titled after one of their songs. Starting with the Central Park concert it then flashes back thirty years to when the boys’ childhoods growing up in the same neighborhood in Queens. Their paths don’t really cross until Artie (Garfunkel) sings at a school talent show and Paul (Simon) is struck by the hypnotic voice and decides he’s going to learn to sing like that too.  They become friends who spend the bulk of their time studying music, imitating the sounds of new comers like Elvis, and honing their own sounds after a few misses.

As they grow they become increasingly influenced by the folk music scene and Bob Dylan in particular who not only sings but spreads messages of change and revolution with his music. They spend time away from music, time apart and eventually join forces again, this time finding success. And the rest is history.

There’s a lot of depth here, a lot of information covered. And tons of great back matter including a discography, afterword and bibliography detailing the writing process, a list of musical connections and influences…in essence, something for everyone.

When Paul Met Artie

Written by: G. Neri

Illustrated by: David Litchfield

Number of Pages: 48

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2018

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4.5/5

 

Clive was born in Jamaica but moved to NYC when he was thirteen.  He loved all kinds of music and imagined himself a DJ creating sounds and experiences for the people who showed up at the clubs and house parties to dance. He soon started hosting his own parties in their Bronx housing project and when they got too big and crowded to be contained inside they spilled out into the streets. He revolutionized the music world and influenced the rappers, break dancers, and other DJs that were just starting to find their footing in the late 70s and early 80s.

I know absolutely nothing about hip hop music so everything in this book was a revelation for me. Filled with vibrant colors, tons of information and fantastic back matter (including an author’s note, timeline, and bibliography). This is a fabulous resource for music lovers and those, like me, who might have little knowledge of the evolution of an entire subculture.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop

Written by: Laban Carrick Hill

Illustrated by: Theodore Taylor III

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2013

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

 

Happy reading/listening!

Music Monday ~ Postmodern Jukebox

Radiohead is one of those bands I’ve tried and tried to like. I can appreciate what they do as long as I don’t have to listen to more than one song in a row. I’m not sure what it is but I just don’t love them. However, I absolutely love this version of their song, Creep. I’m a fan of what Postmodern Jukebox does, taking modern songs and rearranging them in a 20s/30s/big band style version. Great fun!

Music Monday ~ The Champion

The Olympics are in full swing and I love the feelings of optimism and camaraderie and community that they bring. Heaven knows we could use a few more of those things in our world today. But I’m not going to focus on the sports, the athletes and their amazing abilities, the showmanship of the ceremonies or any of the other fabulous things that are going on right now. I’m going to share with you the song that has been stuck in my head for days!

If you’ve watched any of the live coverage you’ve likely heard the song as well. But I’m sharing it anyway so you can hear it in it’s entirety and listen to the words. It’s a message that embodies the Olympic spirit and the perseverance of the athletes but I think it’s a great one for anyone struggling with a trial, anyone who needs that little bit of push to keep going. Let this song be your push.

Music Monday ~ Garth Brooks

I’m not sure how I missed this one last year but I’m listening to it on repeat this year. I absolutely love the message (and I love watching Garth Brooks get all emotional in the video.) Such a wonderful reminder of what’s really important. And it’s always fun to add a new favorite to my holiday playlist!

Out and About ~ Downtown Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City LDS Temple

In an effort to try and get over the turkey coma from the past weekend, the hubster and I headed into the city to usher in the Christmas season with the rest of humanity. First up was the requisite pilgrimage to the amazing Temple Square to see the lights there, and then, pushed along by the crowd we wandered to see the lights and windows at the City Creek shopping center followed by two different productions at the relatively new Eccles Center. (What a fabulous venue! It’s gorgeous and there’s not a bad seat in the house.)

Eccles Theater

Friday night’s show was a musical version of Elf, based on the movie starring Will Farrell. While it didn’t quite measure up to the original (I don’t think anyone could compete with Farrell’s exuberance) it did have added song and dance numbers and was just great fun overall.  Monday, we journeyed back to see Jewel’s holiday extravaganza. She shared the stage with her two brothers and father, who sing and write songs as well. They told stories of their childhood growing up on a homestead in Alaska, and she was candid about her struggles with anxiety, shoplifting and her health before being discovered, interspersed with songs of course! Nearly half the show was Christmas songs, backed by her band while the other half she sang some greatest hits accompanying herself on the guitar. She’s got one of those voices that you either love or hate (her background in yodeling definitely influences her all-around vocal style) and I loved hearing it fill the hall, particularly on the nearly ethereal high notes. The whole weekend was a great way to kick start the holiday festivities.

Eccles Theater Interior

Have you got any traditions of your own that help you welcome the holidays? I’d love your suggestions in the comments below!

Music Monday ~ Frank Turner

I was introduced to Frank Turner a few years ago when a group of friends and I embarked on a postal music swap.  We’d been living in the same area just outside of DC and we were all getting ready to move on to new places and new stages of life. One of our last get-togethers included some amazing food followed by a music sharing session. We’d each compiled a mix CD of some of our favorite tunes and bands that had been meaningful at different parts of our life in hopes that the others would find similar solace as they listened in their new places miles and miles away.

It was such a hit that we decided to keep it up. Over the next couple of years we occasionally added and subtracted a few other participants but the three of us remained constant and it was always a great day when you got a CD in the mail. There were old favorites that circulated and new favorites that came along and Frank Turner was one of those new favorites.

He’s got a fabulously rough (sometimes angry) British sound occasionally channeling the likes of the Dropkick Murphys/Flogging Molly but with a poignancy to his lyrics that speaks directly to my soul. He puts on a fabulous live show, though he does have a bit of a potty mouth (so be warned if that kind of stuff bothers you!)  I highly recommend you take a listen! And if you have any suggestions for a new listen, post them in the comments below.  I’m always up for a new favorite!