"The Composer Is Still Dead," by Lemony Snicket. Music by Nathaniel Stookey. Illustrations by Carson Ellis.
BEST FOR AGES: 5 and up
WHAT IT IS: Like "Peter and the Wolf," this is a children's story that also serves as an introduction to the orchestra. Snicket, you may recall, is the author of the bestselling "Series of Unfortunate Events." Using his characteristic desert-dry wit, here he tells the tale of an investigator who comes to check out all the instruments in the orchestra to figure out which one murdered the composer. The suspected instruments all have to explain what they do as they give their alibis. The book includes a CD with Snicket narrating the story while the San Francisco Symphony plays the score.
THE BACK STORY: Before publication, this story went on tour as a live performance using orchestras from around the world.
WHY WE LIKE IT: This is a really fun way to help your kid learn the difference between a French horn and a flute. The music is great, and story is silly but smart. Plus, it's good to know Snicket has found something happier to do after all those years of tracking the Baudelaire orphans.