Carson Ellis

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These are the opening words to Lemony Snicket’s picture book The Composer is Dead. I picked up a nice copy of the book at a used bookstore a few days ago and am really enjoying it.

The story is about an investigator who attempts to solve the mystery of the composer’s murder, and does so by interrogating each section of the orchestra for their alibis.

The art is beautifully drawn by Carson Ellis, and the text is filled with all those great Lemony Snicket lines you’ve come to expect from his Series of Unfortunate Events, such as

”The inspector was a very handsome and intelligent person, not unlike myself.”

or

“The violin section is divided into First Violins, who have the trickier parts to play, and the Second Violins, who are more fun at parties.”


(click here or part two, and click here for part three)

What makes the book a great piece of children’s literature is how it uses the framework of a detective story to introduce the reader to the various sections of an orchestra. Each section has their own excuse for what they were doing at the time of the composer’s death, and their story lets in on the role and style of that particular section.

The book models itself clearly off of Peter and the Wolf, and also comes with a CD that contains an orchestral interpretation of the story (with narration by “Snicket“ himself). The composition has all the great bounce and drama you’d want a child’s first exposure to classical music, and helps the younger reader fully understand what each section of the orchestra does, as well as giving a taste for the wide range of sounds and emotions that can come from the great classical composers of history.

Although I think the story is best read with the physical copy in hand and the CD playing in the background, you can watch a video version above that combines the illustrations with the musical score to get the same experience virtually.

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”My dear Prue, we are the inheritors of a wonderful world, a beautiful world, full of life and mystery, goodness and pain. But likewise are we the children of an indifferent universe. We break our own hearts imposing our moral order on what is, by nature, a wide web of chaos. It is a hopeless task.”
Wildwood, written by Colin Meloy and illustrated by Carson Ellis

Hard Cover Book Haul 05/10/2015 

My local bookstore was having a big sale on their hard back books! 

The Invention of Hugo Cabret By: Brian Selznick

Egg & Spoon By: Gregory Maguire

The Bone Season By: Samantha Shannon

The Wrath & The Dawn By: Renée Ahdieh

Peaches For Father Francis By: Joanne Harris

Wildwood By: Colin Meloy and Illustrated By: Carson Ellis