The Really Awful Musicians

Overview

A wacky tall tale about how musicians first learned to play together.

All the musicians in the kingdom are so awful that the king sends his men-at-arms to round up musicians and feed them to the royal crocodiles. Pipe and drum player Piffaro heads for the border, collecting other refugee musicians on the way. Their jam session on the road is so bad that the horse pulling the wagon figures out a way to make them all play the same music at the same time—a system of lines and ...

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Overview

A wacky tall tale about how musicians first learned to play together.

All the musicians in the kingdom are so awful that the king sends his men-at-arms to round up musicians and feed them to the royal crocodiles. Pipe and drum player Piffaro heads for the border, collecting other refugee musicians on the way. Their jam session on the road is so bad that the horse pulling the wagon figures out a way to make them all play the same music at the same time—a system of lines and hoofprints. (In fact, there was a time before musical notation was devised, but that’s the only part of this story that is true!) Includes afterword.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—When a king decides he can't stand the racket the royal musicians make, he bans music from the kingdom and feeds all the musicians to the crocodiles. Little Piffaro, who plays a pipe and drum, jumps onto an old horse named Charlemagne and escapes just ahead of the king's men-at-arms. Along the way, they pick up a fast-paced mandolin player named Espresso, Serena the Silent and her harp, Fortissimo and his incredibly loud sackbut, and slow-moving Lugubrio with his contrabass recorder. As Charlemagne carries them away from the kingdom, the musicians play their instruments—fast, slow, loud, soft—at the same time and completely oblivious of one another. Finally, the horse has had enough. "You guys sound terrible! Why don't you all play together?" He draws five long lines in the dirt and uses his hoof to indicate high, middle, and low notes. The musicians listen to one another while they play, and the resulting sound is beautiful. The king hears them, declares them the new royal musicians, and harmonious music is heard from then on. Manders's story zips along. The gouache and colored pencil caricature drawings of the musicians and their trailing onomatopoeic instruments' sounds as they flee the kingdom add to the humor and show their joy of music. An author's note describes the instruments and explains that Emperor Charlemagne was indeed responsible for the creation of musical notation. This fanciful tale is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.—Martha Simpson, Stratford Library Association, CT
Kirkus Reviews
When all the bands in the kingdom sound horrible, the king takes drastic action. Individually, each musician isn't awful, but when they play together, it's excruciating. Even the royal musicians produce an unbearable sound. The king issues a proclamation: "NO MUSIC." A little piper named Piffaro decides to leave and absconds with an old dray horse, which he calls Charlemagne. On the road, they nearly collide with a mandolin player named Espresso, the fastest musician in the kingdom. He hitches a ride; later, their sensitive ears pick up the soft strains of a harp. On the side of the road sits Serena the Silent; she and her harp hop on Piffaro's wagon as well. The trio becomes a quartet when it encounters Fortissimo, a sackbut player recently voted the loudest musician in Bombardy. They're nearly away when an elderly slowpoke blocks their progress. His name is Lugubrio, plays the contrabass and increases the wagon's load to five. All play as they ride, but they are oblivious to the others. It takes wise Charlemagne to pull them up short, and get them to work together. The result is harmony. And who should ride by and hear this newly melodious band but the king? This nifty riff is greatly enhanced by Manders' bright gouache-and–colored-pencil illustrations, which give each player a distinct personality, and onomatopoeic instrument sounds that literally filled the air. Undeniably a lesson, it is delivered with a sense of fun; a helpful author's note describes each instrument. (Picture book. 3-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547328201
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 12/20/2011
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 971,240
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

JOHN MANDERS has illustrated more than a dozen award-winning books for children, including Humphrey, Albert, and the Flying Machine by Kathryn Lasky. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can visit his website at www.johnmanders.com.

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