Review of The Composer Is Dead, by Lemony Snicket


The Composer Is Dead

written by Lemony Snicket

music by Nathaniel Stookey

illustrations by Carson Ellis

HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.  36 pages.  1 CD

I love these new Peter and the Wolf wannabes!  Like The Shoebird, The Composer Is Dead is a picture book story with orchestration.  The accompanying CD is narrated by Lemony Snicket himself.

The story is fun, though not particularly captivating.  However, it does serve to introduce the instruments of the orchestra, and I did find the accompanying music beautiful.

The composer is dead.  All the instrumental sections of the orchestra are suspects, but they have a wide variety of alibis.  A lot of generalities are given about the instruments, which are sometimes fun and sometimes simply stereotypical.

The Violins answered first, of course.  The violin section is divided into First Violins, who have the trickier parts to play, and the Second Violins, who are more fun at parties.

The tuba said, “I’m a confirmed bachelor.  I was home all night playing cards with my landlady, the Harp, taking sips of warm milk from a little blue cup.”  The accompanying tuba and harp duet was particularly beautiful.

I thought the closing was a bit lame — that orchestras have murdered composers for years, so this is no different.  So the mystery in the book falls rather flat.

As with The Shoebird, this adds some nice variety to ways you can teach kids about the orchestra.  This one had nicer music and a story that helps listeners notice the differences between the types of instruments.  I don’t think it’s time to throw away Peter and the Wolf yet, but this is a nice addition to the Introduction-to-the-Orchestra repertoire.

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