The Story of the Orchestra
by Robert Levine, illustrated by Meredith Hamilton
New York: Black Dog & Leventhal : Distributed by Workman Pub. Co., c2001
96 pages plus one audio CD
Available on Amazon and check your library
Note says for grades 5-7, but I just completed with my third and eighth grader.

Music matters. I rediscovered this book last fall. I used it with my older sons who have now graduated from high school (and one from college). As I’m cycling through my Sonlight curriculum for the other two children (8th and 3rd grade). I have appreciated this book anew for its orderly explanation and multi-faceted treatment of the orchestra. The book is divided into parts, first introducing the basic musical eras (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Modern) with short sample biographies of representative composers in each era. The text then moves on through the orchestra instruments: strings, woodwind, brass, percussion, and keyboards, with two final pages about the conductor.

Several other orchestra books I have read have contained interesting information, but this book comes with an accompanying CD, which makes all the difference. For nearly every composer and instrument, there is an accompanying short track with a representative sample featuring that composer or instrument. I would never want to read my children a book about an orchestra without the accompanying music samples. Saying to your children, “This is what a violin looks like,” or “Bach wrote during the Baroque Era,” just doesn’t produce the same impression as hearing the music. Children are smart. They can learn to identify instruments and train their ears to hear different musical elements with a bit of parental help. And if you have no music background, the book and CD are explanation enough that you will learn something as well.

This book is extremely accessible for children. The accompanying cartoony illustrations are attention-getting and often funny/punny. Aside from one illustration of a flute player holding his instrument incorrectly (I played flute for many years and this irritated me), I believe the artwork greatly enhances the text. My eight-year-old son enjoyed reading all the interesting side notes on the pages as well.

See my blog post about other ways to incorporate music into your homeschool, Life Without Music Would ♭-Flat

If Dogs Could Drive, If Dogs Worked, Dogs in Outer Space, etc.
by Bob Carlson
Carlson Press
about 24 pages each

Available on Amazon, $12 each, softcover
ages 2-8

I love bright, rhyming books for the little ones in my life. Even though my children are past the stage for these simple stories, I believe the creative ideas, bold color, and wholesome content are perfect for your young children. Sketch and his other dog friends try out different careers, cars, and space adventures. Children will likely love seeing dogs in careers normally performed by people.

Even before learning to read, the kids will love looking at the fun, detailed, and very colorful pages. I’m also a fan when the illustrator hides something on each page for the children to find–a cat, in one of these books.

Bob writes, “After becoming a grandpa, I became frustrated in my search for fun books for my granddaughter. So many of the books I looked at were dark or poorly illustrated or disappointing in some way. Children need to laugh and let their imagination soar without all the mystical junk that is out there. As a Christian man, it is critical for me to do my part in instilling godly principles and model a healthy family, while having a blast doing it.”

Bob has also written two books so far in his Levi and Sarah series with titles Levi and Sarah’s Big Adventure and Levi and Sarah Learn About Forgiveness. The author plans to include more Scripture and godly lessons in this series.

Reviewed by Karen D. Koch

For more preschool resources, visit our website.

Did you know that parents of preschoolers (oldest child age five or younger) who have never attended a CHEA Convention can attend one day for FREE?

34th Annual CHEA Convention July 13-15, 2017 at the Pasadena Convention Center

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