Title: Great Composers Coloring Book
Author: John Green, Paul Negri
Audience: Students & Families – 8 & up
A coloring book of the composers – what a fun way to add a splash of color to your children’s music history!
Okay, that was a tad cheesy. Moving on.
I really like this coloring book. The illustrations are artistic and classic – no goofy cartoons, no impressionism, no unrecognizable modern art. Personal taste aside, I think that’s particularly important when dealing with historical characters because it helps the individuals become “real” for children in a way a cartoonized character (or an unrecognizable modern glob) can’t quite pull off.
This coloring book includes a good variety of composers from the Baroque to modern periods: Bach, Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Chopin, Copland, Debussy, Dvorak, Gershwin, Grieg, Handel, Haydn, Joplin, Liszt, Mahler, Fanny & Felix Mendelssohn, Mozart, Prokofiev, Puccini, Ravel, Rossini, Schoenberg, Schubert, Robert & Clara Schumann, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Vivaldi, & Wagner. The composers are featured in the order they were born.
Another thing I really like about this book is that each coloring page has a short description of the composer under his illustration. This helps children can get to know the composer a bit while becoming acquainted with his face. The descriptions are concise — 50-70 words each — and do a great job sharing the most important aspects of the composers’ lives and work, along with a few fun music history tidbits to boot. Here are a few samples of the descriptions:
SCHUMANN | Robert Schumann was born the same year as Chopin, and he also wrote some of the finest piano music of the Romantic period, as well as symphonies, chamber music and songs. He was born in Germany and spent his life there. He was an important music critic and helped many young composers. His wife, Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was one of the greatest pianists of the nineteenth century.
ROSSINI | One of the most popular opera composers of all time, Gioacchino Rossini composed dozens of operas, including the famous Barber of Seville. Born in Italy, Rossini traveled throughout Europe and was enormously successful in his lifetime. His lively music is full of humor and delights the listener with many beautiful melodies. One of his best known works is his William Tell Overture.
TCHAIKOVSKY | Among the very greatest of Russian composers, Peter Tchaikovsky wrote symphonies, ballets, operas and other works, including the beloved ballet The Nutcracker, frequently performed at Christmas time. In 1891 Tchaikovsky came to New York City and conducted at the official opening of Carnegie Hall.
STRAVINSKY | The Russian composer Igor Stravinsky is considered to be among the most important composers of the twentieth century. His music was so different from anything before it that at the 1913 premiere of his ballet The Rite of Spring in Paris, riots broke out in the audience. In 1917, Stravinsky met the great artist Picasso, who made a famous sketch of him.
One thing to keep in mind: the illustrations are quite detailed for a coloring book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it does mean that the coloring book will be most appropriate for older children who can handle the fine lines and small coloring spaces. I would recommend it for approximately ages 8 and up.
CHOPIN | Chopin’s description mentions that he lived with George Sands, and the picture is of him & Sands together at the piano. Neither the description or picture is graphic, but since their relationship was inappropriate, you will want to know it is there. Here is the description, along with the picture, for you to review:
“Frederic Chopin has been called “the soul of the piano,” and he composed some of the finest music ever written for that instrument. He was born near Warsaw, Poland, but moved to Paris where he spent most of his life and career. Regarded as a great composer of the Romantic Period, he lived with the famous writer George Sand (shown here; she was born Aurore Dupin). His Polonaise in A-flat Major, called “Heroic,” is one of the most famous piano works ever written.”
Younger children probably won’t catch anything strange from the picture or description, since neither is explicit, but you may need to discuss the issue with older, more discerning children. Or, if you prefer, you can just tear out the page.
JOPLIN | Joplin’s description mentions that he played in social clubs. True, social clubs of Joplin’s time weren’t anything like today’s, and hopefully your kids don’t even know what “social clubs” are anyway, but still… just an FYI.
RAVEL | Ravel’s description mentions that he and his friends had “wild ideas on art and culture.” I don’t think “wild” is the best word to describe Ravel’s ideas (Impressionism), but that’s how they chose to present it. Just another FYI.
I think you’ll love it! Try talking about the composers or listening to their music while coloring with your children! Have fun!
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