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Children's LiteratureCreated to help celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Washington's National Symphony Orchestra, this tale of a mouse conductor and his missing baton aims to introduce children to the instruments of the orchestra, the stage, the hall, and even the outside of the Kennedy Center. It is a bit of a mystery why the author-illustrator team chose to portray musicians and audience as mice. Unfortunately, these creatures are not particularly engaging; many look more like dogs than mice, and the children participating in the hunt are especially lumpy-looking. Animals can be appealing to children, but the characteristics of mice have little in common with those of musicians—unless artists are skilled or inspired enough to point them out—leaving an impression only of inappropriateness. The instruments are pictured with mice children clambering about them, while two large spreads are wasted on bland, boring views of the audience. Finding the baton up the conductor's sleeve is not an especially exciting conclusion to the hunt, or a very believable one either, after all the maestro's arm waving. Overall, both the illustrations and the rhyming couplets of the text strike a distinctly amateurish note. This may do for a performance souvenir, but parents or teachers looking for truly absorbing books about orchestras should try Lloyd Moss and Marjorie Priceman's colorful Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin (Simon, 1995), Bruce Koscielniak's Story of the Incredible Orchestra (Houghton Mifflin, 2000), or, for sheer fun, Karla Kuskin's classic The Philharmonic Gets Dressed (Harper, 1982). 2005, VSP Books, Ages 5 to 8.
—Barbara L. Talcroft