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The Composer is Dead



Last updated Monday, March 5, 2012

Author: Lemony Snicket and Nathaniel Stookey
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Date of Publication: 2009
ISBN: 0061236276
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2012

Synopsis: This irreverent picture book is built somewhat along the lines of Who Killed Cock Robin?, but imbued with Snicket’s charmingly snide wit. The Composer is dead (“This is called decomposing”) and the Inspector is called in to uncover the murderer—or murderers. The sections of the orchestra are personified as the Inspector interrogates the Violins and Woodwinds and Trumpets and even the Conductor. Each has an alibi, though by the end it becomes clear that they are all complicit in the butchering of countless dead composers. The artwork alternates between silhouettes of instruments, the indignant Inspector accusingly pointing his finger, and chaotic, playful interpretations of waltzes and marches as notes and ligatures swirl about. An accompanying CD features a comically dramatic reading by Snicket set against a mishmash of music that integrates motifs from various classical sources. The whole slightly macabre package is great fun, and while many youngsters will miss the clever wordplay and wry twist at the end, this still winds up being a fairly good overview of each orchestral section’s role in bringing music to life. Or death.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What does a composer do?

Vocabulary:
•  Suspicious: behavior that makes someone look guilty of committing a crime
•  Boisterous: loud, energetic and restless
•  Flamboyant: very bold
•  Interrogate: to ask someone a lot of questions
•  Alibis: what an accused person was doing at the time of the crime
•  Arrogant: thinking extremely high of oneself
•  Shenanigans: silly actions
•  Wax nostalgic: talking a lot about the past

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What instruments make up an orchestra?
•  Why do you need so many different kinds of instruments?
•  What do they mean when they say they’ve butchered a composer? Do they mean they’ve literally murdered the composer?

Craft ideas:
•  Names of composers word search puzzle (Provided. If not enough, find site coordinator to make more copies)

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!