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Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments

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Every musician knows that learning to play an instrument has its challenges and its rewards. There's the embarrassing first day of rehearsal, but also the joy of making friends in the orchestra. There's dealing with slippery concert dress, or simply getting swept up in the music. The twelve children in this book are just like any other musicians practicing their instrument Every musician knows that learning to play an instrument has its challenges and its rewards. There's the embarrassing first day of rehearsal, but also the joy of making friends in the orchestra. There's dealing with slippery concert dress, or simply getting swept up in the music. The twelve children in this book are just like any other musicians practicing their instruments and preparing for a concert. But what sets these music lovers apart is that they all play traditional Chinese musical instruments in a Chinese orchestra. Including both flights of fancy and practical considerations, lively poems capture each child s musical experience with a different Chinese instrument, while sidebars provide more information about each one. Vivid illustrations depicting each fascinating instrument bring you along on this musical journey. And then you are invited to the grand finale!


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Every musician knows that learning to play an instrument has its challenges and its rewards. There's the embarrassing first day of rehearsal, but also the joy of making friends in the orchestra. There's dealing with slippery concert dress, or simply getting swept up in the music. The twelve children in this book are just like any other musicians practicing their instrument Every musician knows that learning to play an instrument has its challenges and its rewards. There's the embarrassing first day of rehearsal, but also the joy of making friends in the orchestra. There's dealing with slippery concert dress, or simply getting swept up in the music. The twelve children in this book are just like any other musicians practicing their instruments and preparing for a concert. But what sets these music lovers apart is that they all play traditional Chinese musical instruments in a Chinese orchestra. Including both flights of fancy and practical considerations, lively poems capture each child s musical experience with a different Chinese instrument, while sidebars provide more information about each one. Vivid illustrations depicting each fascinating instrument bring you along on this musical journey. And then you are invited to the grand finale!

30 review for Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments

  1. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

    Review Copy from the Publisher Before a reader even opens the book, it is obvious that this is something more than a typical informational book. The cover hints at fantasy and magic. It also demonstrates the richness and attention to detail that is found in the artwork throughout the book. The artist explains her illustration process on her blog using one of my favorite spreads from the book. Obviously, the art impressed me, but so did the text. The text is in two parts, something that I seem to b Review Copy from the Publisher Before a reader even opens the book, it is obvious that this is something more than a typical informational book. The cover hints at fantasy and magic. It also demonstrates the richness and attention to detail that is found in the artwork throughout the book. The artist explains her illustration process on her blog using one of my favorite spreads from the book. Obviously, the art impressed me, but so did the text. The text is in two parts, something that I seem to be noticing a lot lately like in Do You Hear the Nesting Bird? and Mama Built a Little Nest. One part is the poems that are telling about the preparations children are making as the time draws near for their orchestra concert. This is not a typical orchestra concert however. The orchestra is made up of musicians playing Chinese instruments. We find out in the author's note that this type of orchestra has only been around for about fifty years and traditionally the instruments would have been played alone, as an accompaniment or in a small group. The book is a blend of modern and ancient. Readers may choose to go through the book simply reading the brief poems and looking at the illustrations. This could be especially helpful if the reader is young and not ready for the smaller print and length of the informational text. The poems are written from a child's perspective and are pretty easy for children to understand and enjoy - particularly if they play instruments themselves. I think they will be delighted by "Warming Up" which features fish lips and a pretend kiss. This is accompanied by a wonderful illustration of a girl making a fabulous fish face. Another one that will be sure to engage children is "Friendly Competition." In this poem, two musicians play as fast, long, and loud as they can trying to outdo each other. This results in purple-blue faces. I imagine it would be fun to act this out with or without instruments. The playfulness in the poems is refreshing and often brought a smile to my face. While the poems are interesting and fun to read, the second part of text, the informational portion, adds a lot to the book and shouldn't be entirely skipped. Even with a young child, I would share at least some of the information. Each instrument is named (with pronunciation) and Jiang explains how it is put together. She also tells about how the instrument is played and describes the sound. What really caught my imagination though were the legends and little tidbits about some of them. That was where the phoenix came into play. Legend says that the xiao, a flute made of bamboo, has magical powers that allowed it to summon creatures such as a dragon and a phoenix. I am looking forward to sharing this book with our students. Music is something that many children connect with and the format and illustrations are sure to capture their attention and allow for interaction. I would definitely recommend this book for purchase. I am also looking forward to the album, Songs for Summoning the Phoenix, that is scheduled to be published also. That was the only thing that was missing for me. I wanted to actually hear the instruments as I read. I hope you get a chance to experience this book for yourself. It's a treat. Original review posted at Reading Through Life http://readingtl.blogspot.com/2014/05...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sunil

    I am not between the age of 6 to 12 and I am not that into poetry, but even I can tell this is a beautiful, important children's book. It is to my knowledge the only one of its kind: a children's book about Chinese musical instruments and, more significantly, a book about Chinese children playing Chinese musical instruments. And not only Chinese children! Black children, white children, children of many colors, all playing music together. You know, like it happens in the real world. Emily Jiang's I am not between the age of 6 to 12 and I am not that into poetry, but even I can tell this is a beautiful, important children's book. It is to my knowledge the only one of its kind: a children's book about Chinese musical instruments and, more significantly, a book about Chinese children playing Chinese musical instruments. And not only Chinese children! Black children, white children, children of many colors, all playing music together. You know, like it happens in the real world. Emily Jiang's poems are simple and cute, and they tend to focus on either the mechanics of playing the particular instrument or the experience of performing. While the former poems are evocative at times, I appreciated the latter poems more, as an actor. "My Place on Stage" is my favorite in the book, a poem about how a yangqin player sees herself that builds and builds to a perfect ending. Most others simply capture a description or a moment, but that one is so effective I wish more in the book had that power. I had never heard of any of these instruments, but Jiang did her research, and she provides physical descriptions, musical descriptions, history, and the occasional folk tale to show the place of these instruments in the culture. Finally, April Chu's art truly makes the book something special. It's colorful and gorgeous and imaginative, every page a new delight. In some cases, she illustrates the poems literally, and other times, she takes inspiration and creates something magical, connecting the experience of playing music to the culture from which it comes. Summoning the Phoenix is a lovely look at an underappreciated arena, and I hope it inspires more writers and artists to branch out and explore other cultures to represent children from those cultures as well as introduce other children to the wonderful things about them.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Emily Jiang’s picture book, Summoning the Phoenix, pulls together the traditional and contemporary, inviting readers on a journey through the history of traditional Chinese musical instruments. Teaming up with Illustrator April Chu, Jiang’s work is engaging and informative, sure to make this picture book a well-loved addition to any child’s bookshelf. Jiang introduces the various instruments through her poetry, as well as a short exposition that informs readers of the history, pronunciation, and Emily Jiang’s picture book, Summoning the Phoenix, pulls together the traditional and contemporary, inviting readers on a journey through the history of traditional Chinese musical instruments. Teaming up with Illustrator April Chu, Jiang’s work is engaging and informative, sure to make this picture book a well-loved addition to any child’s bookshelf. Jiang introduces the various instruments through her poetry, as well as a short exposition that informs readers of the history, pronunciation, and style of each instrument. Chu’s illustrations of children as diverse as the instruments they’re playing, come together for a final performance; making practice, passion, and teamwork influential themes in this wonderfully refreshing book. Jiang has ensured that this picture book is accessible for teachers and parents alike, but most importantly, for children to love and enjoy.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Twelve different children learn to play traditional Chinese instruments in preparation for a concert in front of their families and friends. The poems about their individual experiences range in topic from why one budding musician chose his particular instrument to how it feels to use an instrument to paint sounds. Alongside the richly-colored illustrations that cover one page entirely and spill over into the next page are brief descriptions of the instrument as well as some of its history. By t Twelve different children learn to play traditional Chinese instruments in preparation for a concert in front of their families and friends. The poems about their individual experiences range in topic from why one budding musician chose his particular instrument to how it feels to use an instrument to paint sounds. Alongside the richly-colored illustrations that cover one page entirely and spill over into the next page are brief descriptions of the instrument as well as some of its history. By the time I reached the end of this book, I longed to hear all these instruments, separately and together. The author does a fine job of showing the affection each musician has for his/her instrument.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    One those really unusual nonfiction picture books that I love. Emily Jiang's descriptions of Chinese musical instruments are straightforward and concise, the accompanying poems (in various forms) are lyrical and charming. April Chu's illustrations are a perfect match. I hope this book finds an audience. A great library pull for teacher units on music and musical instruments, though the book is shelved in the poetry section. One those really unusual nonfiction picture books that I love. Emily Jiang's descriptions of Chinese musical instruments are straightforward and concise, the accompanying poems (in various forms) are lyrical and charming. April Chu's illustrations are a perfect match. I hope this book finds an audience. A great library pull for teacher units on music and musical instruments, though the book is shelved in the poetry section.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andréa

    Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Monica Isza

    This was a really cool book to learn about Chinese and Asian instruments and some stories about them.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leslie Medrano

    Genre: Poetry Format: Children's Picture Book Award: None Summary: This book is filled with poems that captures each child's musical experience with a different Chinese instrument. On each page there is more information given about the Chinese instrument. Also, the book has a sequence. It begins why telling the reader why the child began to play, the first day of rehearsal, making friends, practicing on your own, and preparing for a concert. I think my students who play instruments could also relat Genre: Poetry Format: Children's Picture Book Award: None Summary: This book is filled with poems that captures each child's musical experience with a different Chinese instrument. On each page there is more information given about the Chinese instrument. Also, the book has a sequence. It begins why telling the reader why the child began to play, the first day of rehearsal, making friends, practicing on your own, and preparing for a concert. I think my students who play instruments could also relate to this book and the feeling that it portrays with the vivid descriptions. Therefore, I would have this book in my classroom. Critique: I liked this book because I use to be in chorus growing up. I know the process of practicing a music piece over and over and preforming it in front of a crowd. After the music is made, it always reminded me of why I loved doing it and gave me motivation to keep practicing. Teaching prompt: After reading "Warming Up", the teacher can ask her students: "why do you think it is important for a musician to warm up?" Craft element: After reading the book I would have my students pick one instrument that was the most interesting to them. Then they will conduct a little research on the instrument. The students that choose the same instrument will be paired together. They will then create and decorate a poster about the instrument and write down facts about it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Siren

    Genre: Poetry Format: Children's Picture Book Awards: None Summary: This story is about Chinese musical intruments. The story is made up of different poems that desrcibe the different instruments and the musicians playing them. The stories flow into a surprise ending where everyone joins in for one big concert. The different poems are bits and pieces of preparation for the final concert. Critique: This book was definitely interesting. I liked that I got to learn about the different Chinese instruments Genre: Poetry Format: Children's Picture Book Awards: None Summary: This story is about Chinese musical intruments. The story is made up of different poems that desrcibe the different instruments and the musicians playing them. The stories flow into a surprise ending where everyone joins in for one big concert. The different poems are bits and pieces of preparation for the final concert. Critique: This book was definitely interesting. I liked that I got to learn about the different Chinese instruments and how they all went along with the poems and the pictures. I enjoyed seeing the poems come together as one at the end of the story. Teaching prompt: I would use Packing for Performance with my students. I would ask them why they think some of the different items are important. I would also point out the last line that says, "When on stage, Don't forget to breathe." I would ask my students why they would need to include that. Craft elements: I would complete a venn diagram with my students using some of the instruments in the book. We would compare and contrast the Chinese instruments to American instruments. For example, the Dizi is like a flute.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Katie Logonauts

    Summoning the Phoenix is a sumptuous book that pairs poems and nonfiction information with excellent illustrations of children playing the featured instruments. Each two-page spread features a range of illustrations from individual panels to full two-page scenes that correspond beautifully to the information provided in the poems and text boxes. Some of the illustrations are highly imaginative, while others are more functional, but all convey a strong love and appreciation for the instruments an Summoning the Phoenix is a sumptuous book that pairs poems and nonfiction information with excellent illustrations of children playing the featured instruments. Each two-page spread features a range of illustrations from individual panels to full two-page scenes that correspond beautifully to the information provided in the poems and text boxes. Some of the illustrations are highly imaginative, while others are more functional, but all convey a strong love and appreciation for the instruments and the music. Although the focus of the book is on Chinese instruments, the children represented feature a wide-range of ages and ethnicities to highlight the worldwide appeal of music. Read the full review and suggested activities at http://www.thelogonauts.com/2015/01/phoenix.html

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    From start to finish, I enjoyed Summoning the Phoenix. The layout is perfect for expanding the “recommended” age range, with brief poems as the primary focus of each illustrated two page layout and text rich columns of information on various Chinese instruments. This title also addresses musical performance issues with poems like Overcoming Stage Fright, Warming Up, and Being Backstage; making this the perfect addition to any music teacher’s library. This is an excellent book for expanding the di From start to finish, I enjoyed Summoning the Phoenix. The layout is perfect for expanding the “recommended” age range, with brief poems as the primary focus of each illustrated two page layout and text rich columns of information on various Chinese instruments. This title also addresses musical performance issues with poems like Overcoming Stage Fright, Warming Up, and Being Backstage; making this the perfect addition to any music teacher’s library. This is an excellent book for expanding the diversity in your musical picture books. While the book introduces the reader to classic Chinese instruments, the students appear to be all colors of the rainbow—without it feeling forced. I recommend this for lovers of picture books and/ or music.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    As a poetry book this fell short, as an informational book it fills a neglected niche. It is almost as though the author felt they had to provide information for all age levels in a single text. The sidebars with information about the instruments is much to straight forward and texty for all but the best mid-grade readers, while the poetry sections are so simplistic I feel only quite young readers, or those who can relate directly, would appreciate them. The form of the poems in both rhyme and m As a poetry book this fell short, as an informational book it fills a neglected niche. It is almost as though the author felt they had to provide information for all age levels in a single text. The sidebars with information about the instruments is much to straight forward and texty for all but the best mid-grade readers, while the poetry sections are so simplistic I feel only quite young readers, or those who can relate directly, would appreciate them. The form of the poems in both rhyme and meter seemed completely unstructured.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

    A book about Chinese musical instruments, with poems for each from the point of view of the child playing them. I got this for my niece, who is 9 months old, and at first thought I might need to hang on to it for a few years. Each instrument also has a sidebar on its background and sometimes a legend about it that's definitely for older kids. But the illustrations are AMAZING, and you could easily read just the poems to a younger child and have it feel like a complete book. A book about Chinese musical instruments, with poems for each from the point of view of the child playing them. I got this for my niece, who is 9 months old, and at first thought I might need to hang on to it for a few years. Each instrument also has a sidebar on its background and sometimes a legend about it that's definitely for older kids. But the illustrations are AMAZING, and you could easily read just the poems to a younger child and have it feel like a complete book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    A variety of poetry forms give sensory experiences, and each page also provides facts about the instrument. Put together, the youngsters are preparing for a concert. Even though a variety of colors are used, overall there is a darkness but softness in them. I wonder if this title would have been chosen without the influence of Harry Potter... An index or title of contents of the instruments would have been a good addition. Music teachers may enjoy using this!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Nivair

    Was lucky enough to attend the author's reading at WisCon 40. The poems are gorgeous—rythmic & uniquely suited to each instrument—and I loved learning about instruments I'd never seen before. April Chu is a master illustrator with great attention to detail. I particularly enjoyed the spread with a sequence depicting a young girl warming up to play. The presentation of the back matter was quite clever as well, and well thought out. Was lucky enough to attend the author's reading at WisCon 40. The poems are gorgeous—rythmic & uniquely suited to each instrument—and I loved learning about instruments I'd never seen before. April Chu is a master illustrator with great attention to detail. I particularly enjoyed the spread with a sequence depicting a young girl warming up to play. The presentation of the back matter was quite clever as well, and well thought out.

  16. 4 out of 5

    margothere

    Good poetry and factual information about 15 Chinese instruments. Excellent pronunciation guidance for each instrument. Diverse student musicians in many (lovely) settings illustrate the poetry and instruments.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sammy

    Beautiful book. The art work was amazing and I learned so much about Chinese instruments. There are also many different types of poems in this book, so it would be a good book to teach variety of poetry as well.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alex DK

    Interesting book about Chinese musical instruments! It was great to research videos of each one to hear what they sounded like after reading this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    GraceAnne

    Extraordinary introduction to Chinese music and instruments,in poetry and prose, with exquisite illustrations.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bethe

    Poems and expository text accompany each Chinese instrument. Snippets of folktales lighten some of the informative sections. Illustrations are lively and show children of diverse heritage.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)

    Informative book about Chinese Musical instruments and beautiful illustrations and poetry.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    ARC supplied by publisher via Edelweiss

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I love the illustrator's style of drawing people. I love the illustrator's style of drawing people.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Donalyn

    Part poetry part nonfiction introduction to Chinese musical instruments.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    Great descriptions of all of the instruments! Kid-friendly poetry--some poems better than others.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    A beautifully illustrated, informative look at Chinese musical instruments.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sjofn

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ruth Pohl

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay

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