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Two New Books Make Beautiful Music!

Weave music into any classroom curriculum with two new books! Play Me a Story presents nine tales from around the world, each with a musical instrument as its central focus. And 16 Songs Kids Love to Sing offers songs ideal for the classroom -- songs for primary and upper elementary students, songs for team building and celebrating, and songs just for fun!

Music is a powerful teaching tool -- and two new books show the power music has to transform and to bring together.

  • The first book, Play Me a Story (Millbrook Press), is a collection of tales from Naomi Adler (The Dial Book of Animal Tales). Nine tales from around the world introduce students to stories and instruments familiar (the fiddle and the drum) and unknown (the didgeridoo and the balalaika).

  • The second book, 16 Songs Kids Love to Sing (The Northeast Foundation for Children), shares songs used at the Greenfield (Massachusetts) Center School to build a sense of community, to build environmental awareness and appreciation, and to celebrate milestones. The book comes with a tape/CD that can be used in school sing-a-longs.


Play Me a Story Book Cover Storyteller Naomi Adler opens her collection of musical tales (Play Me a Story, published by Millbrook Press) with "The Pied Piper of Hamelin." That tale is the most familiar one she tells in a collection as richly diverse in its stories as it is in its mix of instruments and cultures.

After telling how the people of Hamelin, Germany, learn a valuable lesson about keeping promises, Adler introduces a sad tale from Mongolia. To this day in Mongolia, the handles of many fiddles are graced with the carved head of a horse. "The Horse-Head Fiddle" tells how this came to be:

* * * *

One day, Suho the Fiddle Player finds a helpless white foal along the roadside. He carries the foal home and raises it to be a horse of impressive strength and beauty.

"Now the Khan of Mongolia had a very beautiful daughter, and he decided that she would be married to the best horse rider in the entire country. So he staged the greatest race ever to be held in Mongolia [The] winner of the race would marry the princess and one day become Khan of Mongolia."

Of course, the winner of the race was not the nobleman the Khan had envisioned as the perfect suitor to his daughter, so the Khan withdraws his offer and orders Suho to sell him the white horse.

The Khan's daughter, Ling, has heard Suho sing and play his fiddle on a number of occasions. She is delighted at the prospect of marrying him -- and appalled at the treatment Suho receives at the hands of her father and his faithful. In one of the ensuing struggles seven arrows from Khan's soldiers pierce and kill Suho's white horse. In his grief, Suho sleeps, and in his sleep his white horse appears with a message: "Make a fiddle out of my bones so that I will always be with you." Suho fashions his new fiddle's strings from the tendons of the horse, he uses hair from his horse's tail for the bowstrings, and he carves from the bones a head just like the head of his great white horse for a handle.

The story concludes on a happy note: Suho and Ling rule Mongolia, and their palace is full of the sounds of music and dancing and laughter.

* * * *

Adler, a master storyteller, shares in notes at the end of the book how she came to learn of each of the musical tales she tells in Play Me a Song. Among the tales are "The Dancing Corn Maidens" (Hopi), "The Singing Drum" (South Africa), and "The Bewitched Snake Charmer" (India). Each musical tale is accompanied by the illustrations of Greta Cencetti. Cencetti's soft pastels reflect the emotions of the stories. As songs are punctuated by their repetitive choruses, Cencetti marks the pages of each tale with border illustrations that reflect the culture of the tale's origins.


16 Songs Book Cover Singing together is one of the favorite things students at the Greenfield (Massachusetts) Center School do. Once a week, the student body gathers to share news of their school community and to sing. And songs are often part of the morning meetings held in classrooms throughout the school.

16 Songs Kids Love to Sing is the long-awaited response to the question many teachers have asked of the Greenfield Center School staff: "When are you going to make a tape?" Finally, the songs -- some chosen to appeal to primary-age students and others selected to musically challenge upper elementary youngsters -- are available on tape or CD. The recordings are accompanied by a neat spiral-bound book that includes each song's lyrics and chords.

"Songs keep schools alive and happy," says Chip Wood in his introduction to 16 Songs Kids Love to Sing. "It's hard to be grumpy when you're singing or hearing singing around you. Song builds the voice of the classroom and of the school, saying with melody that we are in harmony, that we are many and diverse, yet also capable of creating a blended beauty beyond words."

The songs in this collection are richly varied.

  • Many of the 16 songs highlight Earth-related themes.

  • A handful provide opportunities for students to reinvent the songs, to contribute their own creative lyrics that will make the songs their own.

  • Several challenging rounds will appeal to older students, who'll be amazed at the beautiful music they can make.

  • The songs even include a few alternatives to the standard "Happy Birthday"!

The songs in 16 Songs Kids Love to Sing are lovingly recorded by Pat and Tex LaMountain. The recording provides a model for teachers to follow or for students to sing along with.

These two new books are available in bookstores. If you are unable to locate a copy of either book, ask your bookseller to order it or contact the publisher directly. Play Me a Song, by Naomi Adler and illustrated by Greta Cencetti, is published by The Millbrook Press, 2 Old New Milford Road, Brookfield, Connecticut 06804. 16 Songs Kids Love to Sing is published by the Northeast Foundation for Children, 71 Montague City Road, Greenfield, Massachusetts 01301. (800) 360-NEFC.

Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 1999 Education World