Friday, March 28, 2008

The Bremen Town Musicians

Author/Illustrator: Johnson, David
Publisher and Date: Rabbit Ears Productions, Inc., 1997
Genre: Picture Book, Traditional tale
Age Range: K-2nd

Summary: This version is retold from the Grimm tale. It is about an old donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster who are no longer wanted by their owners. One by one they join each other in heading to the town of Bremen to become musicians. The donkey sang, his voice resembling something between a snare drum and a saxophone, the dog sang bass, the cat sang harmony which sounded something like a violin or a rusted hinge, and the rooster sang in a voice sounding like something between a musical saw or a bagpipe. Once all together they came upon a house full of thieves who were eating a meal together. The animals come up with a plan to serenade the thieves for some food. As they begin to sing, they crash through a window into the parlor of the house which scares the thieves and they run out of the house. The thieves attempt to return to their house to reclaim it. One thief went back to check it out, but when he entered he startled the animals who attacked him. He went back and told his other thief friends how awful it was and they gave up their careers as thieves and moved to Venice to form a singing group. The animals remained at the house, where the practiced their songs each day.

Response: I thought this book was absolutely adorable. It somewhat reminded me of The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion are all on their way to Emerald City to see the Wizard of Oz. Each character has their own unique quality (or singing ability!) that contributes to the group. In the book, they never reach Bremen Town which I think could be represented by Emerald City or even the Wizard. The Wicked Witch of the West I think could be portrayed by the thieves in the house that the animals come across. The Wicked Witch did all she could to keep the friends from getting to Emerald City, but they did make it. In the book, the animals' last stop is the house and the reader never knows if they actually reach Bremen Town where they wanted to go be musicians.

I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book. They look a little kooky as you can tell by the book cover. Their eyes are different sizes and colors and they just look so frazzled. Its no wonder their owners did not want them any longer. I couldn't find what media were used for the illustrations, but it reminded me of those blow pens I used to get when I was a kid. It was basically just a marker that was designed so you could blow one end of it and dots of color would sprinkle onto the page in no particular order. The would come with stencils and such so you could make different designs with them. It looks similar to airbrushing.

Teaching Ideas: This book would be wonderful as a music lesson. Students could be grouped together in fours (or however many the amount of students would allow) to compose their own "Bremen Town Melody" to play for the rest of the class. Each student could pick out their own instrument to play and could describe what kind of animal it would represent.
For a Language Arts lesson, students could write a short ending to the story and draw and simple picture to show what would happen if they animals in this book had continued on to Bremen Town. A bulletin board could be put together of their work to display their creative writings.

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