Dawn's Reading Recommendations

Seeing as how I have been known to take a shift at the Vromans Children's Department on occasion, I have acquired a few favorite children's books that feature music in one way or another. So as we head into the summer, here are a few of my picks to add to your summer reading lists! 

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan - Ages 8 to 12
This is a beautifully crafted story that starts as a fairy tale, and meanders its way into a World War II era civilian setting by way of a very unique harmonica. As the harmonica changes hands, those who play it are changed too. And each character has a quality that makes them different from their peers, a birthmark, an ethnicity, etc. As they encounter challenges they find confidence and strength in their music. A wonderful, moving read for young and old alike. 

Help Your Kids with Music by DK Publishing - Ages 7 and up

You're probably familiar with the DK books. They specialize in non-fiction and have great layouts that incorporate images and text in a way that is easy to absorb and learn at any age. And they've just made a new book about Music Theory. This book is an excellent addition for anyone wanting to supplement and reinforce the music theory we work on at lessons. 

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dimitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M.T. Anderson - Ages 13+
The prologue pulls you right into the events, and then the author provides a painstakingly researched, beautifully detailed history of Shostakovich and his hometown of St. Petersburg, which would later become Leningrad. We follow this story through the Siege of Leningrad during WWII. And even if we set all the facts and research aside, this is an excellent, at times brutally honest, book that highlights the power of music to unite and communicate even in the hardest of times. And while this chronicles a very dark moment in history, it also brings to light some of the resilience and compassion found in individuals working together during those years of Siege. The author is giving us an insightful look into the life of a very remarkable composer. I found this book very moving, informative, and at times, quite inspiring. It is definitely one of the best books I've read this year. 

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket - Ages 4 to 7
An amusing picture book exploring the relationship between performer and composer. The story follows a detective investigating the death of the composer. His inquiries include discussions on the sounds and nature of differents parts of the orchestra, and has a light-hearted but meaningful conclusion. 

Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban - Ages 7 to 11
Zoe is 10 and has dreams of playing the grand piano at Carnegie Hall. When her Dad ventures out to get her the baby grand she is hoping for, he returns with a wheezy organ instead. This is a great story about finding your musical voice and expression, even if it leads you somewhere different than your original destination. 

Playing from the Heart by Peter Reynolds - Ages 2 to 5
When a boy starts playing the family's unused piano, his Dad arranges for him to take piano lessons. Along the way, amid all of the lessons in technique, precision, and accuracy, the boy loses some of his initial fascination with the instrument until he returns to it years later. A beautiful story about understanding how important creativity and ownership are in creating lifelong musicians. A terrific read for parents too!