The picture book Wild Symphony by Dan Brown, illustrated by Susan Batori (Rodale Kids, 2020) is a combination of so many genres it astounded me the first time I found it. It is a set of animal poems, an app with related musical pieces, a seek-and-find book, and a scrambled letters puzzle. Although it is just 44 illustrated pages with brief poems on each page, the reader should plan to spend between 30 minutes and an hour pouring over these pages and listening to the symphonic music via the free The Wild Symphony App.
The poems are nicely suited for children. Each poem is dedicated to a different animal. It fits the tone and personality of both the illustrated animal and the basic facts we already know about those animals. Downloading the free app lets you hear music that works well as a background accompaniment for reading the page’s poem aloud. Each animal owns a particular instrument to add a unique sound to the full symphonic orchestra, and each page has letters hiding in the illustrations that a young child will enjoy finding. Help your kids unscramble the letters for a clue to the book’s puzzle. In this way, the book becomes a seek-and-find book. (The answers are hinted at on the subsequent page, which I’ll admit took me a few moments to realize.)
The illustrations by Susan Batori are cartoony and friendly. They place the animals in familiar neighborhoods and human settings that the children are familiar with, giving the animals a humorous situation to add to the hilarity of this book.
Wild Symphony would work well to be performed as a group: each child can select the animal they want to read in the group setting and read or recite it as the background music plays. Practicing reading the poem to the musical accompaniment would greatly help in the confidence one will have in reading to match the rhythm of the music.
But this is not all. In the tradition of the program music The Carnival of Animals (music by Camille Saint-Saens, composed 1922), Dan Brown’s music can be a learning tool for learning the instruments in an orchestra. By connecting each musical instrument to a different animal, kids will learn the unique qualities of each instrument, all the while appreciating the rhymes, rhythms, and metaphors of poetry.
The author is best-selling author Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code fame and I’m astounded by this unique book and the compositions even more than I was when I read and enjoyed The Da Vinci Code when I read it years ago. (I wholely recognize I’m also at a completely different stage of life now, so I’m not sure what I’d have thought many years ago.) Wild Symphony is a fantastic addition to any bookshelf, especially a homeschooling parent’s musical education rotation. I love it!
Note that the author donates his royalties for each book sold to a charitable foundation benefiting musical education worldwide. Yet another reason to love this book!