Beethoven & The Chiming Tower Bells: Children’s Biography Review


Review of Children's Beethoven Biography by Opal Wheeler on The Music Blog Title:          Beethoven & the Chiming Tower Bells
Author:      Opal Wheeler
Pages:       168
Reading Level: Child – Young Adult
Audience:  Students, Teachers, Families
Stars:         ★★★★


This little biography is a great overview of Beethoven’s life. The book starts with Beethoven’s childhood and continues through his musical career, highlighting the major successes and disappointments he experienced as he worked.

The style is interesting, quick-paced, and in story format, though by no means immature.  It’s a great resource for little readers and would be a fun family read-aloud, too!  You can also purchase a study guide for the book, if you’d like to incorporate discussion points and quizzes into the book.

One NEAT feature of this series is the sheet music scattered throughout the story. Even if no one in your house can play the music yet, try following along as you listen to recordings of the pieces. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the composer’s compositions! In this volume, you’ll find excerpts of Beethoven’s sonatinas & sonatas, ecossaises, rondos, minuets, scherzos, and programmatic music.

The illustrations are sweet & simple.  They are black and white, but I find them very tastefully done.

[box style=”white” ]Ludwig Beethoven & the Chiming Tower Bells is from the Great Musicians Series.[/box] 


I have one main critique of this book and the other books in the series:  In an attempt to keep things cheerful the author sometimes misrepresents negative elements of the composers’ lives and character so they don’t seem as bad as they really were.  There are two main examples of this in the Beethoven biography.

1.  Beethoven’s father was an abusive alcoholic, but the only portrayal we are given of him in this book is that he was a kind, affectionate father – taking young Ludwig on his knee, praising him for his accomplishments at the piano, etc.  Consequences of his irresponsibility are mentioned in the book (family having little food, having to sell household items so they didn’t starve, etc.) but only in the context that he was unable to make much money.  Nothing is mentioned of him being a drunkard, and so we are left with the impression that he was a loving father who just couldn’t find a good job.

2. Those that knew Beethoven tell us that he was proud, impatient, and struggled with outbursts of anger.   Here, we are given the impression that he was actually gentle and humble…  Quite the opposite!  I’m sure he had his sweet moments, but if those are to be mentioned it needs to be clarified that it wasn’t the norm.

I appreciate the author’s discretion in dealing with mature issues, and I am definitely not advocating that inappropriate detail should be included in the books – only that inaccuracies should be avoided.  It is better not to mention a topic than to slant facts so the reader will receive a more positive impression of the story than is accurate.  

There are no inappropriate details to address, but here are a few smaller items for parents to be aware of:

– Luck / Fortune is referenced in a number of places.  p. 33,46, 64
– It comments that Beethoven “just wanted to be alone” as a boy without clarifying that he was avoiding his abusive father.  As a result, the reader might get the idea that he didn’t like being around his family.  p. 19
– It is mentioned that Beethoven didn’t care about rules, he just wanted to follow the music as it sounded in his mind.  p. 95

WITH THAT IN MIND…  Let me be clear that despite the above critiques, I still loved the book.  It’s the best Beethoven kid’s biography I’ve read so far, and I definitely recommend it!


Ludwig van BeethovenIn Summary  

Music Teachers & Parents, it’s a great resource to spice up your student’s study of music history and would make great reading assignment – especially if you do a composer of the month!  Definitely worth adding to your music library.

You can buy it from Amazon HERE.

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