• It’s the birth date of Willa Cather (1873–1947), O Pioneers!, My Antonia. Read Willa Cather: Author and Critic by Bettina Ling.
  • In 1941, Japanese pilots attack Pearl Harbor. Thus, it’s National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day. Read Boy at War by Harry Mazer, and Pearl Harbor is Burning by Kathleen Kudlinksi.
  • The microwave oven is patented in 1945. Read Kingdom: Micro Monsters by Nam Nguyen and Pie’s in the Oven by Betty Birney, illustrated by Holly Meade.
  • It’s one of two annual National Cotton Candy Days. The other is July 31. Cotton candy became popular at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

On December 7, 1842, the first concert of theNew York Philharmonic, the first symphony orchestra founded in America, was performed. Over the years, the Philharmonic has performed more than 15,000 times and tonight will play a program of Beethoven and Mahler in Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center. Since many families attend formal events involving singing and the orchestra during the holiday season, let’s look at two books that will immediately make a child think that musicians would be a lot of fun to hang out with.

Karla Kuskin tackles the question of how musicians prepare themselves for a concert in her hilarious The Philharmonic Gets Dressed. Presenting the 105 players of the symphony, Kuskin talks about their activities before the performance—bathing, drying themselves off, and putting on underwear and over wear. Then fully dressed in black and white they head out to take cabs, cars, subways, and buses that will deliver them to the concert hall. Finally assembled in Philharmonic Hall, the symphony waits for the conductor; after he steps on to the stand, they get to work, playing beautifully. Kuskin’s text is just right, a balance of information and whimsy. ButMarc Simont really steals the show in his virtuoso performance as illustrator in this book. He brings these orchestra players to life—showing them as human beings, fat and skinny, strange and beautiful, in various stages of undress. Every page causes a chuckle from two- to eight-year-olds, as readers watch these musicians getting ready for a big event. Because the book brings preparation for a concert to a child’s eye view, it makes the concert hall seem more friendly and approachable. Some savvy parents even use this book as a bedtime story.

Members of the New York Philharmonic own Stradivari and Guarneri violins, and Lloyd Moss’s Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin shows how that instrument mixes with others—trombones, trumpets, cellos, flutes, even a harp—to create different chamber groups. In the end a conductor with a baton—and his dog accomplice—lead the musicians. “It’s music that we all adore. It’s what we go to concerts for.” In this Caldecott Honor Book, illustrator Marjorie Priceman shows the players moving with frenzy—they float, play, and sway to the music—as do two cats, a mouse, and a dog. Teaching both counting and vocabulary to preschool to eight-year-olds, the spirited text often gets cries for an encore.

Both books make readers want to run, not walk, to the nearest concert hall so they can soak up the music. Happy birthday to the New York Philharmonic—and happy listening to concertgoers everywhere. However you listen to the music of the season, these two books will make it more enjoyable for all members of the family.

Here’s a page from The Philharmonic Gets Dressed:


Originally posted December 7, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: Music, New York


  1. Anna says:

    I was just telling some friends about this book last night – one of my childhood favorites. I was thrilled to see your post this morning! (and to be able to share it with my friends- I’m afraid my description didn’t convey how great a book it is!)

  2. Nina says:

    Love this book! Great memories of reading it to my kids!!

  3. Karla Kuskin was extraordinary, as an author and as a person.

  4. So glad to have just discovered my favourite book in your great Almanac!
    Marc Simont’s drawings of those very different characters, and they way they deal with getting dressed, and heading out across the city, have me going back to them from time to time, as if they were family. And I feel that closing line has a hidden depth charge. To me it’s not just about music but about what children do naturally and, at best, artists in any media: “Their work is to play. And they play beautifully”.

  5. Ooh, I’m going to order both books for the inner city kids in our Scrollworks music program! What a great reward for perfect attendance in the 5-8 year old violin class.

  6. suzi w. says:

    Oh, Anita, this is one of my favorites!! I read it often as a story time book when I worked at Barnes & Noble. I agree with Bridget about the last line.

  7. Joy Chu says:

    One of my all-time favorite books! I gave my own copy away to my son’s first piano teacher, in gratitude for the enthusiasm she instilled into him—which he still has. And now, sixteen years later, I miss having that book around. Thank you, Anita, for refreshing my delight in this Karla Kuskin classic…

  8. When my mother gave me this gem, I pored over the illustrations and studied all of the details….the shower cap….the whiskers being trimmed…the sheer black stockings….the wave of lightning in the conductor’s hair….and the chandeliers in the concert hall. It is a perfect concept for a children’s book! I recently had the pleasure of reading it out loud to my cousin’s four-year-old, and she giggled the whole way through — and then asked if I would read again as soon as we finished the last page. Thanks, Anita!

  9. Beverly says:

    I’ve been a librarian to children for a long time and somehow I missed this one. It is delightful and makes me want to have a symphony themed story time. Thank you for sharing it.

  10. G. Perry says:

    I read this book last year after hearing about it here. I loved it. Absolutely loved it.

    It’s a buy-and-keep book.

  11. The Philharmonic Gets Dressed is one of my all-time favorite picture books, too. I wish it had won the Caldecott. There’s subtlety in its charm, so it’s not surprising that not everybody knows about it. Thank you for highlighting it, Anita!

  12. Anita says:

    Paul: It would have been a great choice for the award; but I am glad it has become a classic.

  13. G. Perry says:

    I continue to reread this book and love it as much as the first time I read it.

    Happy Holidays!

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