Book reviews: Freddie the Frog books

Freddie the Frog and the Thump in the Night
1st Adventure: Treble Cleft Island
by Sharon Burch
Illustrated by Tiffany Harris
Published by Mystic Publishing
ISBN 0-9747454-9-9
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

This is the first of two books and CDs to teach pre-school to grammar school to read music, or at least introduce them to western music notation. There are some nice illustrations of Freddie the Frog’s home terrain, which is shaped like a treble cleft and staff lines. Each line of the staff has a place of interest in the story: F above middle C is Freddie’s home; A is for a bank of azaleas; C is for crocodile river, and so on. The story has a little suspense – a frog is swallowed by a crocodile but gets coughed up – I suppose most children would enjoy it. The storytelling on the CD was pleasant, although I found Freddie’s voice a little irritating, it didn’t make me turn the CD off. I think this is a very sweet book, but I do wonder how this book can teach kids much about music other than the look of the cleft and the names of some of the notes. There’s a disconnect here between the name of the note and the sound of the note. Written music means nothing if it’s not heard, whether in the ear or in the mind. No where that I could find in this book was the note tone ever played or sung or aurally presented as special in any way I was aware of. To me, that’s the map without the territory. I think if there had been a catchy little tune played enough for the kid to remember it and then at the end the tune was notated and the kid was asked to sing along, that would have make me a lot happier with the book. On the plus side, I that it does introduce the look of music, so the first time the music teacher puts a piece of written music in front of them, the kids are likely to feel at home with it already. That would be good, but I don’t think it will shave any time off ear training and sight singing practice. The other thing that bothered me was that this book didn’t cover the entire treble cleft: it left out G, B, and D. I realize these notes weren’t part of the story, but I think they should at least have been included on the staff at the end of the book.

Freddie the Frog and the Bass Cleft Monster
2nd Adventure: Bass Cleft Monster
by Sharon Burch
Illustrated by Tiffany Harris
Published by Mystic Publishing
ISBN 0-9747454-8-0
Review copy provided by publisher

Review by Ginger Mayerson

I was happier with the second book in the Freddie the Frog series. All the notes in the bass (or F) cleft were memorably covered in a wacky story with a scary moment at the end that turns out to be a dream. It’s nicely done: the pages for the notes have the note on a smaller piece of paper that is lifted or folded back to reveal the note character or icon. Such as Annie the Ant for A below middle C. I still think they needed a catchy little tune for the kids to learn and then associate with the written music. I’m not sure why there was a Reggae version of the alphabet song on the end of the CD, but there was. There were a few other sing-along types songs as the end of the CD. Singing is always good, but these songs aren’t connected to anything in the book and I didn’t feel they advanced the learning experience. There are also outtakes at the end of the CD that were just goofy and unnecessary and I have no idea why they were included.

After the holidays, I’m going to seek out someone with a little kid and see if their kid gets more out of this than I did. I always find the kid point of view so fascinating. Until then my opinion is that these are nicely produced and illustrated books that don’t teach as much music or teach it as well as I think they should or could, but might be amusing for a child in the target age group.

Website: www.freddiethefrogbooks.com

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