The Composer is Dead Book reviews


Author(s): Lemony SnicketDownload  


There’s dreadful news from the symphony hall—the composer is dead!If you have ever heard an orchestra play, then you know that musicians are most certainly guilty of something. Where exactly were the violins on the night in question? Did anyone see the harp? Is the trumpet protesting a bit too boisterously?In this perplexing murder mystery, everyone seems to have a motive, everyone has an alibi, and nearly everyone is a musical instrument. But the composer is still dead.Perhaps you can solve the crime yourself. Join the Inspector as he interrogates all the unusual suspects. Then listen to the accompanying audio recording featuring Lemony Snicket and the music of Nathaniel Stookey performed by the San Francisco Symphony. Hear for yourself exactly what took place on that fateful, well-orchestrated evening.

Some Reviews: 457 in

Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger rated it     

Yesterday I played the CD of this to my fourth class and showed them the illustrations (from the F&G I got at last week’s HarperCollins’ spring preview). It is terrific!

When I told the kids we were going to listen to something by Lemony Snicket several announced that they’d HATED the Unfortunate Event books. But of course — these are fall fourth graders, after all, and I suspect those that disliked the books only picked them up (as 3rd or even 2nd graders) because friends were liking them. I love the books myself, but would be the first to say they require a child reader with a particular sensibility and taste (a Carrollian one, if you will).

But this is actually much more accessible, I’d say. The illustrations are fun, but it is the CD that makes this package. Handler is a witty and wise writer and narrator. This is sort of an anti-Peter and the Wolf, I’d guess. Like that classic, the different instruments and parts of the orchestra are highlighted, but so differently. Handler/Snicket, as he does in Unfortunate Events, speaks ironically and amusingly, but never down to his child audience and throws in a few tidbits to the adults as well. (I don’t have the book here, but I recall a witty reference to several Bachs and then Offenbach. All dead, of course.)

Look out for this one. And I know that if it is performed again (with Handler narrating)in my town, I’m there!

Luisa Knight

Luisa Knight rated it     

If Lemony Snicket was going to compose a symphony and corresponding plot, it’d be safe to expect orchestral inside jokes, the battle of the instruments, jovial sarcasm, and a little mystery and intrigue. And that’s exactly what you get! This experience doesn’t disappoint and will be loved by both orchestral fans and The Series of Unfortunate Events friends alike.

Ages: 6 – 11
Approx. Duration: 30 minutes

Cleanliness: mentions drinking wine and dancing.

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becs_recs rated it      

I am excited for the day when I have the opportunity to play The Composer is Dead in my own classroom. The entire idea of staging a murder investigation in an orchestra setting was unique and delightful – exactly what I have come to expect from Lemony Snicket. As a proud former band geek, I so enjoyed the personification of the various instruments throughout the Inspector’s interviews. As an alibi, the flutes claim to be “much too wimpy and high-pitched for murder!” and the tuba is a “confirmed bachelor” who sits at home playing cards with his landlady, the Harp. In addition to an engaging premise, the accompanying musical tracks add a rich element of suspense and humor to the story. I highly, highly recommend taking the time to sit down and properly experience this book, complete with Snicket’s narration and Nathaniel Stookey’s composition.


Abigail rated it     

The composer is dead, and the Inspector is determined to find the guilty party in this hilariously clever look at the symphony, and the world of classical music performance. As he interviews each of the instruments, or orchestral sections, he discovers that everybody has a plausible alibi. But the composer is definitely dead, so someone must have killed him…

With tongue firmly in cheek, popular children’s author Lemony Snicket offers an entertaining picture-book tribute to the murder mystery genre, as well as to the glories of classical music, in The Composer Is Dead. With lots of clever puns and plays on words, as well as his signature word definitions, Snicket crafts a book that is as thought-provoking as it is hilarious. Carson Ellis, who won a Caldecott Honor earlier this year (2017) for
Du Iz Tak?
, provides the artwork, which captures the madcap sense of humor found in the text to perfection. There is original music to accompany this tale, composed by Nathaniel Stookey, but unfortunately, I was not able to listen to it. Even without that experience, I enjoyed this one immensely, and would highly recommend it to all Lemony Snicket fans, and to anyone searching for picture-books about the symphony, or the world of music.

Harold Ogle

Harold Ogle rated it     

This was tremendously entertaining, with some added amusement that was unintended by the author. The book involves the investigation of an orchestra by a detective who is trying to discover why “the composer is dead.” It contains a lot of funny digs at different orchestral stereotypes, including a number of veiled inside jokes and puns, as the detective interviews each section of the orchestra as suspects in the murder case. What makes it really shine, though, is that it is also an audiobook: each copy of the book comes with a CD containing two sets of audio tracks: one is the full audiobook, with a great reader performing both the interrogating inspector and the shifty sections while an orchestra performs the score accompanying the dialog; and the other is just the orchestral score, for those who wish to add their own dramatic flair reading the text aloud. It’s a wonderful performance piece.

The unintended entertainment was from watching and hearing my kids as they listened to the score for the first time. It starts off wonderfully: “The composer…is dead.” There’s a three-second caesura, and then the score begins, with a tremendous basso brass blatt reminiscent of “Night on Bald Mountain.” My kids started laughing hysterically each time this happened, and soon it became clear that, to them, the sound was evocative not of the grave, but of tremendous flatulence. They absolutely loved it, and were completely entranced.


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