The flying orchestra by Clare McFadden

cover image

UQP, 2019. ISBN 9780702249297
(Age: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Music. Orchestras. A windy day in Brisbane sees a flying orchestra hit town. The image on the title page shows a lad watching as the orchestra blows in, heralding a story full of magical touches. Some poignant, others full of laughter, the music played by the orchestra hits the right tone as it creates a background symphony to the everyday corners of all of our lives. Each page presents a different aspect of our lives, missing the train, welcoming someone home at the airport, when a baby is born or someone lies awake all night, thinking. Others are at the beach or in the park, cooking for six or watching the dawn, and each time music can be heard; an orchestra or solo violinist, a percussionist is playing somewhere on the page, a soundtrack to our lives.
McFadden's illustrations are vague and ethereal, sometimes almost out of focus but each capturing the spirit of the words and its music, as a slice of life is presented. I particularly loved the image of the man missing the train. What a story could be evinced, with his sad look, holding a bag with a bunch of flowers, the grey and fawn colours of the neglected railway station reflecting his mood. (With Bach's 'Chacomne' playing) And the image of the orchestra playing on the escalator in a shopping centre, people watching as they ride up, but one man stopping, leaning against the rail, intent on hearing the music. (Elgar's 'Nimrod Variations' here) Readers will love spying the orchestra on the pages and recognising the different instruments, hearing the music as each page is mused over. Teachers will be able to introduce instruments to the class, having them hear how each sounds and what sort of emotion it elicits.
I listened to some of the tunes on the playlist at the end of the book and was astounded at how closely they recalled the images presented in the book. What a wonderful class reading this would be with the music playing in the background. Winner of the CBCA 2011 Crichton Award, this is the first time is has appeared in paperback.
Fran Knight