Monday, May 11, 2009

Review: Bosco and Kitty's Piano Magic by Robert Pace

The adorable illustrations of Bosco and Kitty's Piano Magic caught my eye as I was perusing the Lee Roberts exhibit at the MTNA conference. Bosco looks quite a bit like my Bella, a.k.a. Piano Dog. (She sits in on so many lessons that I half expect her to jump up and start playing one day!) Now that I’ve had a chance to examine it more closely, I’m happy to have this story book for more than just the pictures. In fact, Bosco and Kitty are going to play starring roles in my pre-piano camp this summer.

Bosco and his friend Kitty use the “twins” and “triplets,” the two and three-black-key groups, to explore sounds that are high, low, loud, quiet, slow, and fast. Together, they use “piano magic” to share their worlds with each other. Kitty loves to climb high in the trees, while Bosco loves to splash down under the water of the fish pond. When Bosco’s paw feels too large to play the twins and Kitty's feels too small to play the triplets, the friends remind each other that “you can do almost anything if you really try,” a maxim that my pre-piano campers can carry through all their years of piano study. As the animals come up with more games to play together, they combine the concepts. For instance, they make thunder on the triplets, very low, very loud, and very slow. The activities suggested by the book encourage children to “think in motion,” a feature of the Pace approach that involves a combination of visual, aural, and tactile facilities. The story also encourages students to be creative and come up with new games.

The book comes with a CD on which the story is narrated along with musical examples so that we get to hear what Bosco and Kitty are playing. You might think that a cat or a dog wouldn’t sound very musical as they applied their paws to clusters of black keys, but Bosco and Kitty have an amazingly beautiful touch! I’ll be happy to invite my students to play as beautifully as they do. Another thing I like very much about the CD is that each page has its own corresponding track. This means that I can play a portion of it for my pre-piano campers, then we can stop the recording to play for ourselves the games that Bosco and Kitty play. I can pick it up on the next page on the next day without having to search for the right spot on the recording.

My daughter enjoys following along with the book all the way through as a bedtime story, but with a student or campers, you might prefer to take one or two games at a time. (6-year-old Mary Beth's review: "I love it!")

Dr. Robert Pace is the author of the highly-regarded Pace Piano Method, so the quality of Bosco and Kitty’s Piano Magic is no surprise. Roberta Wilson’s illustrations are so appealing that I’d love to have prints of them to frame and hang in my studio. You can see sample pages here.

Now, if I could just get Bella the Piano Dog and Sebastian the Cat to play like Bosco and Kitty!

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