Whimsical Music Lesson Delived by Mice!
Husband and wife team Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes have created a small library of educational books involving mice. Together, they have written and illustrated books that teach kids (their target audience is ages 4 through 8) about Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court. With Maestro Mouse and the Mystery of the Missing Baton, they’ve branched out a little from politics to include the arts.
In this book, children learn about orchestras—who conducts them, the different sections within them, and the names of famous composers. Of course they don’t learn these things in a straightforward, unexciting way.
A famous maestro whose baton suddenly goes missing helps lead the small mice children—and human children following along in their seats—around and through the orchestra to explain all of this. (After searching high and low for it, the baton is discovered to be up the maestro’s sleeve.) Here’s a sample of the text:
They searched the trumpets and trombones, but once again, alas,
The only thing they found in them was lots of twisted brass.
They looked inside the woodwinds next—the flutes and piccolo,
The clarinets, the big bassoon and oboes—oh, but no!
The author does a great job of walking the line between being overly educational and purely entertaining—not that either of these sides is bad in itself, but my kids absorb the most when there’s a bit of both.
The illustrations of all the different instruments grabbed their attention and they certainly learned the names of some—I did, too. (My big sister’s screechy hours of practice on the flute when she was in second grade were too unpleasant for me to seriously consider learning any instrument…ever.)
While some books, such as Rachel Isadora’s books on ballet and baseball, provide more facts and details on the pages, separate and smaller than the story, Barnes puts extra information in the back of the book. I like that—the information doesn’t overwhelm the reader in the middle of the story.
In the end notes for parents and teachers, there are paragraphs dedicated to explaining what a symphony orchestra is (including why the maestro is important), the different sections and famous composers. There is a note on the illustrations—they are inspired by the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, so a field trip there to compare the illustrations with the real thing would be fun. There are plenty of links to websites with even more information should you and your kids have more unanswered questions.
My daughter’s favorite part of the book, though, was one of the two activities at the end of the book, entitled “Musical Facts and Fiction.” There were 10 sentences; kids figure out whether each is true or false. Turns out, they are all true. And they are all so interesting! Here are some of my favorites: Music helps cows give more milk. Music helps plant grow. Music cheers up sad people. Music helps shy elephants perform. I’m guessing that these fascinating little facts will be lodged in my kids’ heads for quite some time.
Peter and Cheryl Barnes did a great job with this book, and definitely helped open the door to music for my kids.
Maestro Mouse and the Mystery of the Missing Baton
By Peter W. Barnes, Illustrated by Cheryl Shaw Barnes
Little Patriot Press: www.littlepatriotpress.com
Price: Available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million! for approximately $12
|Easy to Read||4|
|Quality of Illustrations
|Appealed to Both Boys and Girls||4|
|Kept My Child(ren)’s interest||3|
|I Would Purchase This For My Family||no|
|I would Purchase This As A Gift||yes
| Overall Rating
All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom
and wife living in Great Falls, VA.
In addition to reading to her three
small hildren, Kate runs marathons,
Crossfits, and blogs about raising
kids with books at