Perfect Picture Book Friday Visits The Symphony

I didn’t post a picture book review last Friday for a perfectly wonderful reason. My college roommate from Lawrence University, where the two of us played violin in their symphony orchestra years ago, was playing in a concert with the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, and…

Joshua Bell performed with them.

I vividly remember the day my friend asked if I wanted her to get me tickets.

Yes, Yes, a million times YES!

For years, I have admired and been inspired by Joshua Bell’s astounding talent. I dreamed of producing such sweet sounds from my violin. I practiced and tried not to get discouraged when my playing was compared to the squeal of a cat with its tail squeezed in a vice. I practiced day after day, smoothing out my tones. Eventually, I earned my place in a symphony. My proud father rewarded me for my hard work with a beautiful violin he spent years making. Today when I play the violin, joy bubbles up in my heart because the music singing out is mine, and creating it thrills me. But when I listened to and watched Joshua Bell perform, I realized playing the violin gave him something greater–it completed him. Through his violin, he lets the world hear his voice, know his feelings, and glimpse into his soul.

As the smooth, surreal sounds filled the concert hall, I reminded myself to breathe. Then, I glanced around to see I wasn’t the only one blinking back tears. I reached over to hold my twelve-year-old daughter’s hand. “How are you liking the music, sweetie?”

She leaned against my arm. “You know how much I love listening to Katy Perry?”

I nodded.

“This is better,” she said.

Because of the unforgettable concert when my dear friend shared the stage with Joshua Bell, I would like to introduce you to a picture book that, through precisely chosen words and brilliant illustrations, offers a lively look at the orchestra.

Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin by Lloyd Moss.

Title – Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin – view on Amazon Here.

Written by – Lloyd Moss (1926-2013)

Illustrated by – Marjorie Priceman

Published by – Aladdin Paperbacks  edition 2000  (text and illustration copyright 1995)

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  music and learning about the instruments in an orchestra

Opening –

With mournful moan and silken tone,

Itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE.

gliding, sliding, high notes go low;


Amazon Review – The Caldecott Honor book, now in paperback!
With mournful moan and silken tone,
itself alone comes ONE TROMBONE…

Then a trumpet joins in to become a duet; add a French horn and voila! you have a trio — and on it goes until an entire orchestra is assembled on stage. Lloyd Moss’s irresistible rhymes and Marjorie Pricemans’s energetic illustrations make beautiful music together — a masterpiece that is the perfect introduction to musical instruments and musical groups, and a counting book that redefines the genre.

Why do I like this book? Musical instruments each have their own distinctive voice. Describing an instrument’s voice through words often falls flat to the actual sound. But when I read each stanza dedicated to a musical instrument, I found that Lloyd Moss demonstrates a “fine-tuned” understanding of the particular sound each instrument produces and found perfect words to bring each one to life. And…offering the absolute, hands down, most perfect accompaniment to the text, one of my very favorite illustrators, Marjorie Priceman, was chosen to create the art. Her style is expressive. Her illustrations burst with intense colors and freedom. Her lines are more fluid than cursive handwriting.

Learn about Lloyd Moss HEREThis is an incredible post about the author that includes the story of how this special book came to be.

Learn about Marjorie Priceman HERE.

Listen to Joshua Bell play O Mio Babbino Caro by Giacomo Puccini HERE.

Joshua Bell plays the theme song to the movie, Ladies in Lavender HERE.

Discussion with children – watch videos on your computer or check them out at the library of music performed by various solo instruments. Then, play a piece of classical music performed by an orchestra and see how many instruments children can recognize.

Ask children if they can describe the sound each instrument makes in sounds and words.

DANCE TIME! – While listening to various musical pieces, make space in a room for a little creative “dance” time. Let children explore with their hands, arms, feet, legs, and bodies what direction the music takes them.

DRAWING TIME! -Spread out large sheets of paper, markers, and colored pencils or crayons. This time, while listening to expressive pieces of music, encourage children to show, with lines, shapes, and squiggles, how the music ‘looks’ to them if it were a picture.

If you know of other picture books that explore music, I hope you’ll share them in the comments.

Until next Friday!

12 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday Visits The Symphony

  1. I have been listening to Joshua Bell’s “Ladies in Lavender” CD this afternoon while responding to the PPBF posts. I love his music (and that movie with Maggie Smith and Judy Dench). What a great opportunity for you to see him perform in person. I have admired his work for years. And, I really enjoyed the book you shared today about each instrument having its own unique voice. This book has many applications in the classroom when I think about a symphony orchestra and all the instruments playing in harmony — great way to introduce kids to music. I loved your story about the violin your father gave you. I played the piano, so I am classical at heart. It is an important part of my life and we have a wonderful philharmonic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • During the concert, Joshua Bell played the “Ladies in Lavender” theme song. It was beyond beautiful. I’ve been listening to his music for years, but seeing him perform was astounding! I’ve never seen anyone play and move around so much at the same time. He is a high-energy performer. Like you, I also played the piano. My mom gave me my first lesson when I was three or four. I still have the beautiful piano which belonged to my aunt.


  2. I think it does require a bit of imagination to translate the magical sound of an instrument into a “word” that can be printed on paper. That said, this book does it beautifully and with power. Once upon a time, a recording of Peter and the Wolf frightened my kiddo so much that she refused to go back to music class in elementary school!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your mention of Peter and the Wolf reminded me of when my daughter was in 2nd grade. Her music teacher introduced the class to it, and I recall a couple parents showing up at the school to complain. I’ll have to listen to the music again. It’s been a long time. I do recall, however, how accurately the melody and instruments brought the story to life.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Very clever being able to translate the sounds of each instrument in an orchestra. Especially for children. I had to smile at the previous comment as I too was frightened off music for some time after having to listen to Peter and the Wolf during school music lesson. But this is an interesting book. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Leslie, thank you for reminding me of this book, “Zin, Zin, Zin, A Violin!”. It was a favorite as my kids were growing up, both for them and for me! I appreciate the way you describe Joshua Bell’s musicianship, “Through his violin, he lets the world hear his voice, know his feelings, and glimpse into his soul.” It was truly an honor and joy to accompany him, and the evening was made even more special knowing that you and your daughter were enjoying the music with me! But come on, comparing your playing to a cat whose tail is squeezed in a vice? No, we just need a little more practice time to create those heavenly sounds like Mr. Bell!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Ann, I must admit that the squealing cat sounds were from my early lessons when I was trying to find the right amount of pressure to apply to the bow. It seemed to take forever before smooth tones filled the air. I hope next time we get together we can bring out our violins and have a little concert again.

      Liked by 1 person

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