Title: Robert Schumann & Mascot Ziff
Author: Opal Wheeler
Reading Level: Child – Young Adult
Audience: Music Students, Music Teachers, Families
If I had to pick one work to describe this book, it would be adorable. I love it!
First of all, it’s a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life. Second of all, it’s just plain charming. The book starts with the lad Robert and the many adventures he had with his faithful kitten, Ziff, at his heels. The story continues through his musical career and into his happy life as a husband and father. His family life – both as a boy and as a married man – was delightful, and this book highlights the sweetness of those relationships beautifully.
The illustrations are darling. The biographies from Opal Wheeler’s Great Musicians Series are illustrated by various artists, but this one is my favorite. They are black and white, but they’re very tastefully done – simple, sweet, and charming. The work of this particular illustrator reminds me of old-fashioned Christmas Card artwork. Love it.
And then there is the wonderful sheet music scattered throughout the book. Schumann wrote piles of music for his little ones, and thousands of boys and girls around the world have benefited from them. Many of his pieces from Album for the Young are included, as well as snippets from his Sonata in G and others.
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 style and learn to recognize his compositions.
The writing style is interesting, quick-paced, and in story format, with a pleasant level of maturity. It’s a great resource for little readers and would also be a fun family read aloud.
You can take advantage of the study guide (separate purchase) for the book, if you’d like to incorporate discussion points and quizzes into your group reading time.
Critiques & Cautions
There are no inappropriate details in the book, but here are a few FYI cautions for parents to be aware of:
– Robert lies to a piano salesman in order to gain access to his pianos for a practice session. It’s not portrayed as wrong – only as a little joke p. 46
– Robert says that his music cannot be bound by rules. p. 72
– Robert says that the fairies have blessed his little baby… Which, of course, is absolutely ridiculous. p. 92
This little biography is a fantastic overview of Schumann’s life and is definitely worth adding to your music library.
Music Teachers & Parents, it’s a great resource to spice up your student’s music history studies and would make great reading assignment for a composer of the month project!
You can buy it from Amazon HERE.
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