A couple of months ago, I talked about the music, “Carnival of the Animals” as being one of the five “musical musts.” Today, I want to talk about the book of Carnival of the Animals
“Carnival of the Animals” by French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns is a childhood favorite. He composed “Carnival of the Animals” in 1886 under the title, “Grand Zoological Fantasy.” Originally, it was composed as a joke and was performed at a Mardi Gras concert for a few of his closest friends. Saint-Saëns did not allow the score to be performed in public during his lifetime because he was concerned that people would not understand his humor. However, two months after his death in 1922, the Colonne Orchestra in Paris performed “Carnival of the Animals” to the delight of hundreds. It has been a favorite of children ever since.
There are fourteen sections describing lions, hens, roosters, wild asses, tortoises, elephants, kangaroos, fish, cuckoo birds, fossils, swans, and pianists (he believed that early pianists were dangerous beasts!).
The book by the same title as the music, Carnival of the Animals by Barrie Carson Turner is delightful with wonderful illustrations by Sue Williams. What I love about this book is that Barrie first explains to children the background of “Carnival” along with explaining about the instruments of the orchestra that represent each animal. He describes each instrument family (string, woodwinds, brass, etc.) along with an explanation of the sounds produced by each instrument family. Then, starting on page 19, Barrie begins to feature each individual animal portrayed in “Carnival.”
What makes the book especially delightful is that a full-length CD of Saint-Saëns’s music is included as well as page indicators telling the reader when to play the music. For instance, before playing the “Royal March of the Lion,” you can prepare your child to experience this grand entrance by reading from the book, “Listen! Who is arriving? It’s the Lion!” The strings are playing the lion’s marching tune as he walks proudly around his kingdom.” Now, mentally visualize this grand creature marching across the stage to the beat of the music.
A Fun Learning Experience
Next, make this an interactive and educational experience for your child.
While listening to the instrument families portraying each animal ask your children these questions to develop their critical thinking skills:
- Can you hear what particular instrument is being played? What instrument is it?
- What family does that particular instrument belong? (strings, brass, percussion, etc)
- How well do these instruments describe the animals? Would you choose different instruments to describe this animal? Why or why not?
- List on a paper six of the animals from the music and then list adjectives describing each animal. For example the lion: ferocious, King of Beasts, furry, yellow, roars, etc. The elephant: big, ponderous, slow, gentle, gray, wrinkly skin, etc.
Play a game:
After reading the book and listening to all the animals performed by the various instruments; see if you can play the CD by itself and try and guess what animal is being portrayed. This is developing “aural” or listening skills—extremely important for school success!
Draw what you Hear:
Make flashcards of each animal with the name of an animal and a drawing of the animal. Then play the music and have your child hold up the flashcard of the animal when they hear it.