A Little Book Of The Orchestra – The Clarinet by Mary Auld and Elisa Paganelli

The Blurb On The Back:

Ed loves playing the clarinet in an orchestra.  He is delighted to share his music with a group of enthusiastic school children – and to invite them to his orchestra’s next concert.

A LITTLE BOOK OF THE ORCHESTRA reveals the world of a large orchestra in a story of one of its musicians and their instrument.  In this book, find out about the clarinet and what it is like to learn and play.  As you read, you can listen to the amazing music the clarinet creates both on its own and within the orchestra.

A LITTLE BOOK OF THE ORCHESTRA – THE CLARINET was released in the United Kingdom on 9th March 2023.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

You can order A LITTLE BOOK OF THE ORCHESTRA – THE CLARINET by Mary Auld and Elisa Paranelli from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Mary Auld (a pen name for Rachel Cooke) and Elisa Paganelli’s illustrated book for readers aged 7+ (produced with the London Symphony Orchestra) intends to get children interested in classical music and playing instruments.  Told as a story, there’s a lot of information here but while I liked the audio download accompaniment, I don’t think the format gives itself to casual reading and it’s better used in a formal teaching setting.

I’ve found it really difficult to work out what I think about this book so I’m going to start with the positive – and there is a lot to be positive about.  

I liked the fact that it’s been put together to try and get young readers interested in classical music and playing a musical instrument.  A lot of thought has gone into it.  There’s an introduction by both Sir Simon Rattle (the famous conductor and Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO)) and Chris Richard’s (the Principal Clarinet of the LSO) and the LSO has made available suggestions of music that readers can listen to at the same time as they read the book, with special boxes within the text pointing you to a piece to download and listen to.  

Auld has gone for a story format to get the main points across – in this case Ed is a clarinetist who is visiting a school to teach them about the instrument and what it is like to play in an orchestra.  There is a lot of information within the text – both what the clarinet is, how you play it, the types of sound that it makes and how that can be translated into music (which I will come back to below).  Paganelli’s illustrations are beautifully done – I really enjoyed the enthusiasm she puts on the faces of the listening children and there is a sense of energy to the pictures as well.  The book ends with a depiction of what an orchestra looks like and who sits where and what types of instrument sit together plus there’s a description of the music accompaniments to the book and what to listen for and a glossary of the different terms used within the text.

And that then brings me to the musical accompaniment because I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  On the one hand, it’s a good idea to have an additional way of illustrating the points made in the text and it helps to bring it all to life while making the reader think about what the music and the instrument is doing.  On the other hand, it does make me wonder if the book stands on its own without the music there to help it plus I think that the download format of the music means that this book is probably better used in a formal teaching setting rather than something that you can slide over to a young reader to encourage them to check out a new subject.

None of this is intended to dump on the book or its idea.  Although I’m not entirely convinced that it succeeds on its own terms, I do think that if you have a young reader who is showing an interest in music or if you are keen to share your own love of music with them, then this book is a good place to start.   

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