Friday, March 8, 2013

PPBF, The Composer Is Dead

Today's pick
The Composer is Dead, by Lemony Snicket
The Composer Is Dead
Written by Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Carson Ellis
Music by Nathaniel Stookey

HarperCollins Publishers, 2009, Fiction, ages 5 and up

Orchestra, Music, Mystery

"The Composer is Dead.
'Composer' is a word which here means 'a person who sits in a room, muttering and humming and figuring out what notes the orchestra is going to play.'  This is called composing.
 But last night, the Composer was not muttering.  He was not humming.  He was not moving, or even breathing.
This is called decomposing."

This picture book and accompanying CD were created to introduce young readers to the orchestra, something like Prokofiev did in his time.  The story follows a detective who investigates the death of the Composer.  The listener is introduced to various instruments through text and music.

What I Love:
Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) is both author and musician.  He brings his personal brand of bizarre to this somewhat educational picture book.  Snicket has a style all his own.  His ironic humor is not lost on his young audience, and is appreciated by adult fans as well.  The accompanying CD includes an instrumental track along with the narrated version, so it can be enjoyed in many ways.  This book is a humorous introduction to orchestral music, musical instruments, and various musical terms.  If you are a fan of The Mysterious Benedict Society series, then you will especially appreciate the familiar illustration style of Carson Ellis.

1. Take your children to experience live orchestral music.  Our local concert series always includes works geared toward young people.  Local colleges are also a great place to go.  Kids can hear the music in a more intimate setting and may have a chance to talk with the musicians.  If you live near a public radio station, as we do, you may have the opportunity to be in the audience for free.  Call your local NPR station and ask.
 Thanks to Mister Make It and Love It
2. Making your own instruments or holding an impromptu jam session are great ways for children to learn to appreciate the different sounds instruments can produce.  Here are a few clever ideas from The Crafty Crow.
3. I remember listening to Holst's The Planets in middle school.  We were supposed to close our eyes and write down each of the different instruments we could hear.  Listening in this way teaches a child to be more aware of the sounds around them.  They can begin to appreciate the complexity of musical composition.

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday for March 8, 2013.
Thanks to Susanna Leonard Hill and to Julie Rowan-Zoch for prompting me to participate.


  1. Such an unusual book -- actually a quirky approach -- but I love it. I like anything fun that teaches kids about music, the composer, director and musical instruments. My husband's uncle is a well-know compser and music plays a major role in our lives. I will definitely check this book out.

    1. I'd love to hear an aficionado's opinion. Thanks.

  2. Wow, catchy and clever, this looks quite unique and one that would appeal to several kids I know. Awesome find, Joanne. I like your activities.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Joanna. I'm new to PPBF.

  3. This sounds fun. Much better than Children's Guide to the Orchestra which was spectacularly unsuccessful at teaching me to love classical music as a child. Classical music is now part of my music library (and I play it every day for my students at lunch). I will have to check this out for my students.

  4. We also love The Story of the Orchestra by Robert Levine. It has a more straightforward approach.

  5. So glad you're participating in PPBF. And what great activities - we still have a cardboard guitar from a Paul McCartney Halloween costume from 10 yrs ago! In love with the cover illo - and just about anything Ellis does. She has a wonderful feel for color.

  6. Great post. I love the Mister Make It cardboard guitars! I see a summer project coming out of this.

  7. I literally laughed out loud when I read the opening lines! This book looks like fun! I love books that stretch kids mind a little and introduce new vocabulary words.

  8. Hi Joanne...thanks for stopping by my PPBF post! I'm so glad to come to yours. I always loved music and believe it is important for kids. This book looks like so much fun.:) I will try to get a copy. I'm also going to check out the Shar Mohr challenge of reading 300 picture books in 2013...sounds like something I am doing already...without being part of a challenge.:)
    Vivian Kirkfield

  9. this sounds like a pretty unique book. thanks for the review. I like the opening lines.

  10. This looks like a unique one. We'll have to check it out.

  11. Thank-you all for your encouraging comments. It's always a pleasure to connect with kidlit people. And it's such a joy discovering new books through Susannah's blog.


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