PreS-Gr 3–Ina Allen and Barbara Kemp’s goal to bring about a union of music and storytelling, with each enhancing the other, led to their writing this story and performing the music. Chris Potts expressively tells the tale which is interspersed with excerpts from famous classical pieces of music. Orphaned Nanushka has come to live with Great-tetka (aunt) Olga, a formidable woman who expects Nanushka to spend all of her time doing chores. One morning, when Great-tetka Olga is away shopping, Nanushka eschews her chores to spend time playing with her imaginary companions. Great-tetka Olga is quite upset when she returns to find the child shirking her duties, and orders her back into the house to wash dishes and scrub floors. That evening, Nanushka hears a cat mewing outside, and brings it in. She feeds it, and the cat joins her in bed at bedtime. The next day, two children appear at the door asking after their missing cat. Nanushka is overjoyed to make friends with the children who have recently moved into the area. And Great-tetka Olga may be just as happy that Nanushka has companions her own age. Allen and Kemp flawlessly perform the eight classical pieces which enhance the story, including “Russian Theme” (Rachmaninoff), “Laideronnette, Imperatrice des Pagodes” (Ravel), “La Troupe” (Bizet), “Les Bulles de Savon” (Bizet) “The Devil’s Kitchen” (Bacon), “Mi-a-ou” (Faure), “Le Jardin Feerique” (Ravel), and “Allegro Molto” (Beethoven). A great introduction to classical music and Russian culture.–Beverly Wrigglesworth, San Antonio Public Library, TX, School Library Journal November 1, 2012
Nanushka: A Russian Children's Story a beautiful fusion of classical music and timeless storytelling. Although created especially for children to enjoy, listeners of all ages will thoroughly enjoy the saga of little Nanushka's adventures in a rural Russian village. Classical pianists Ina Allen and Barbara Kemp lend their music playing talents, while narrator Chris Potts brings the tales to life with a masterful performance. Nanushka: A Russian Children's Story is enthusiastically recommended for both personal and public library children's collections. Midwest Book Review, April 2020
It isn't hard to imagine sitting with narrator Chris Potts as she tells this story. Her presentation is welcoming and intimate as she shares an old Russian tale of a girl who is living with her great-aunt, Olga. Potts's elderly aunt sounds demanding and gruff as she admonishes young Nanushka about the chores she expects to be completed during her absence. Portraying Nanushka, Potts ranges through many emotions-- from loneliness and despair over her tasks to delighted abandon as she plays with imaginary friends--sometimes Chinese dolls or top-spinning Peder or a fellow bubble lover. Listeners will hear her elation when the neighborhood provides an unexpected surprise. Story chapters alternate with musical selections of Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Bizet, and Beethoven. A perfect selection for family listening. A.R. © AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2018]
Ina Allen's clever audio adaptation of Grimm's well-known folktale about embracing uniqueness is a joy to listen to. John Pruessner is an engaging storyteller who identifies each of the characters--a spritely old man, a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster--with quirky, easily recognizable voices. After each animal's introduction, he delivers a lilting refrain of encouragement to "listen to the music inside of you." Further enhancing the narration is Allen's captivating piano accompaniment, which provides an additional "voice" for each character through a unique melody. Reminiscent of Prokofiev's PETER AND THE WOLF, this is a delightful mosaic of music and storytelling, and a fun way to nurture an early appreciation for both. S.A.A. © AudioFile 2021, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2021]
A few years ago, as a newly pregnant woman, my mother gifted me with speakers to play music to my unborn child. I am not familiar with the specific studies correlating IQ to classical music. However, many of us homeschool parents can agree that introducing music appreciation at an early age is an excellent education to impart to our children.
Ina Allen, the founder of Music and Narrative, had the same thinking. She was a young mother who wanted her children to enjoy and appreciate classical music. She was also mainly dissatisfied with what was available in the libraries. It is important to note that Ina is an incredibly talented pianist. She mentioned that children have more fun listening to music when they are interwoven with stories from their website. And so, she found other gifted people to work with (pianist Barbara Kemp, narrators Chris Potts and John Pruessner) and produced this wonderful collection of classical musical storytelling.
The Brementown Musicians, A Tale with Music and Nanushka, A Russian Children's Story with Music are audiobooks that can be individually downloaded as a soft copy MP3 (USD 9 each) via Music and Narrative's website or bought as a hard copy CD (USD 12 each).
Our homeschool consists of lots of reading aloud and talking (my kindergartener is quite the chatterbox!), so these audiobooks were a welcome addition--I could rest my throat even for a few minutes. I told my five-year-old we were going to listen to the Brementown Musicians story from the computer. He knew this story already from our repeated readings of his book. At first, he was adamant. "I want YOU, Mama, to read it for me." I explained that we would just try listening to it, and if he did not like it, I would stop the audiobook immediately. When I saw the story was relatively short, I thought to myself, "short enough!" as I hoped it would keep him interested.
I knew the story forward and backward, but noticing a change at the beginning of the narration, I was immediately intrigued. In the version we have read many times before, there was no "old man." So, I thought, is this not the Brementown Musicians? And then I heard the familiar animals like the donkey, which made me listen closely for the next few minutes. The piano accompaniments played by Ina Allen gave me a happy surprise. I did not expect them at all! The music is familiar, and the story using the piano gave it a sense of home.
Being continually active, my little boy kept asking how many minutes were left. So in between listening, we would check the time bar at the button. Despite this, I saw him lying on the floor for a few minutes with his head resting on a pillow. Even for that extremely brief time, I knew he was listening to the music and the narrative. We have read about different classical composers before, but I did not have much success in getting him to try listening to their pieces.
I have not heard of the tale of Nanushka before. I wished the digital download included a copy of the script (with the names of the compositions), so I could follow exactly along. Young children exposed to audiobooks early on would greatly benefit from this compilation. But visual learners (like me) might appreciate seeing the words in print as well. That said, my ears were tuned more to the music as there were no words to think about intently.
Chris Potts is the narrator of Nanushka, A Russian Children's Story with Music. She is a very versatile voice talent! If I could find one word to describe her way of storytelling, it would be "delicious." Sweet candies and then a platter of afternoon tea were the thoughts that came to my mind when I was listening to her tell the story of Nanushka. The crispness of the Russian names and the way she pronounced them and changed her voice throughout was pleasant like a magical, lilting xylophone.
Our copy is a soft copy MP3. It would be nice if Music and Narrative could include the names of the tracks and their composers (with their pictures) as a download. In our homeschool, we enjoyed looking at the different faces of composers and drawing their faces (at least what we think are to their likeness). The piano music and selections were beautiful. My boy and I enjoyed those. We played pretend piano most of the time. This was our favorite part as we listened to the audiobooks a few more times. I liked that we learned unfamiliar words like "cacophony" and "tetka." My son asked me, "Is cacophony the same as distorted music?"
I recommend The Brementown Musicians, A Tale with Music to households with young children. The entire production of Nanushka, A Russian Children's Story with Music is applaud-worthy. I hope more audiobooks like this will be released. The hard copy CDs are a thoughtful gift to give to new homeschool parents as a form of encouragement--that they can homeschool any way they want to. I knew I would appreciate it. Tell and play us another story, please!
-Product review by Katherine Marie D. Tanyu, The Old Schoolhouse®, November 2021