Symphony for a Broken Orchestra: How Philadelphia Collected Sounds to Save Music
Amy Ignatow, Author
Gwen Millward, Illustrator
Walker Books, Fiction, Oct. 25, 2022
Suitable for ages: 6-9
Themes: Broken musical instruments, School, Children, Musicians, Community
Opening: “Philadelphia is full of NOISE. Some noises are LOUD, and some are soft. There are sharp noises and dull noises and funny noises and sad noises. And music is everywhere in Philadelphia.”
Book Jacket Synopsis:
What happens when musical instruments can’t make the sounds we expect them to make? Is music still possible?
When the schools of Philadelphia filled with broken musical instruments, making it difficult for students to learn to play, musicians young and old came together to raise money for repairs. They played a symphony especially written for the broken instruments and showed that music is always possible — with a bit of inventiveness and improvisation.
Based on a true story, this inspiring book celebrates a community coming together to make a joyful, meaningful noise.
Why I like this book:
Amy Ignatow’s book is a must read for children and adults. It is full of heart, hope and inspiration. Her opening pages show school children playing a variety of musical instruments. Her text is lively and sound dominates with WAAH! WAAAAAH!…TIKA! TIKA! TIK! TIK!…BRAP! BRAP! and WOOOOOOWW! covering the pages as children learn to play. But, there is a big problem — many of the instruments are broken. How will kids learn to play them with broken strings, drum holes and missing keys and pieces? They can’t, so they are put in storage. The children miss their music program.
This book is a must read for children and adults. It is based on a true story of the condition of musical instruments in the Philadelphia school district and how an artistic director touring a school discovered a storeroom filled with broken and unplayable instruments. He decided to hold a community concert with professional Philadelphia musicians of all ages to raise funds to repair the instruments. A composer wrote “Symphony for a Broken Orchestra.”
Gwen Millward’s illustrations are colorful, lively and expressive. They take on a rhythm of their own in the story and speak to readers. I like the racial diversity among the children and the use of bubble quotes to capture their frustration.
More information about the nonprofit organization Broken Orchestra can be found in the back matter, including a link to an audio recording of the symphony performance.
Resources: It is my hope that this book will encourage kids to play an instrument of their choice. And encourage them to ask questions about the state of instruments in their school districts. Are there any broken instruments in storerooms that are in need of repair? This would make an excellent class project to get kids involved in making a difference.
Amu Ignatiow is the author-illustrator of the Popularity Papers series and the Odds trilogy, She lives in Philadelphia with her family.
Gwen Millward is the illustrator of many books for children, including Super Milly and the Super School Day by Stephanie Clarkson. She lives in the United Kingdom.
Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by Walker Books in exchange for a review.