By John Manders
Clarion Books, $16.99, 32 pages

“No more LOUD, soft, fast-fast-fast!, slo-o-o-o-o-o-ow, screechy, bellowy, terrible musicians,” declares the King in John Manders’ children’s book, The Really Awful Musicians. After the King’s musicians play, he grows frustrated and feeds the musicians to his crocodiles and bans all music from his kingdom.

In the back alleys of the kingdom, little Piffaro and a horse named Charlemagne make fast friends as they hide Piffaro’s tweeting flute and thumping drum from the royal guards. As they flee, Piffaro and Charlemagne meet other runaway musicians. Some of the musicians play fast, quietly, loud or slow. After running for quite some time, Charlemagne asks the musicians to stop making so much noise! He encourages them to play together, and in the same tempo. After drawing a beat, and inscribing some music notes into the ground, the musicians start to play a lovely melody. This lesson in teamwork and collaboration is completed when the king hears the sound and asks the musicians to play in his kingdom–reinstating music forever.

The Really Awful Musicians is based on the true story of Emperor Charlemagne (800 A.D.) who wanted all hymns to be sung to the same tune and musical notation was created. The book also introduces young readers to classic instruments with each new musician that is picked up. Overall, the book is a wonderful lesson in history, music, and teamwork.

Reviwed by Sophie Sestero