Before I even start this review, I must admit that I have seen advertisements for Zeezok Publishing for at least two years, but I have never paid the least bit of attention! For some reason, the name Zeezok never grabbed me, and the advertisements didn’t tell me (in huge, bright, neon letters) what type of product the company sold.
I’ve had a “Eureka!” type experience since receiving a complimentary set of Zeezok Publishing’s Frederic Chopin Composer study. I am now in love with this publisher I had ignored for so long!
The Frederic Chopin set contains two paperback books – Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland: Early Years and Frederic Chopin, Son of Poland: Later Years, both by Opal Wheeler – a paperback study guide, and a Chopin Companion CD.
These two books were originally written before the middle of the twentieth century and make excellent family read-alouds. I had actually checked Later Years out of our local library last November and read it to Nick and James. We enjoyed it tremendously and became very interested in the Son of Poland, Frederic Chopin. I happen to have two CDs of his music, and we listened to them a few times.
Mrs. Wheeler’s books frequently mention specific works that Chopin wrote during certain periods of his life – when he found out Warsaw had been captured by an enemy and after his sister died, for example. She also includes sheet music of select portions of the compositions.
My CDs did not contain any of the works mentioned in Later Years, so we attempted to find them on YouTube. We were able to find two or three of the works, but mostly, we couldn’t find the exact composition mentioned.
When we finished reading the copy of Later Years from our library, James especially kept requesting, “Let’s read about Chopin’s Early Years!” Alas, our library doesn’t have that book. Imagine my delight, then, in December when I found out Zeezok was going to send me this Chopin set from their Great Musicians Series!
Not surprisingly, we enjoyed reading Early Years just as much as Later Years, and I don’t think it hurt our learning a bit to read them out of order. Having Zeezok’s Chopin Companion CD made our reading even more enjoyable. Each time we came to the sheet music of Chopin’s compositions, we could listen to that very work on the CD.
The CD is set up very simply with each “track” matching the sheet music labeled in the books. The music from both books is included on one CD. I didn’t realize at first that the selections on the CD are small portions of an entire composition. I would like to have been able to hear the entire work that Chopin composed, but I understand that children may lose interest after just a few minutes. (Perhaps the compositions are so long that only one or two could fit on a CD in their entirety.)
The Study Guide enhanced our learning from Mrs. Wheeler’s books by giving relevant historical and personal information. I found the historical tidbits especially interesting. In one portion of Early Years, a young Chopin visits a noble friend whose father is a mean, hot-tempered man. Apparently, the man’s wife is very afraid of him and does whatever she can to avoid his anger – but Chopin’s music is able to make him smile.
I was pleased to see that the Study Guide told the name of the man, his wife, and gave a little bit of information about their lives. It was just enough to ‘whet my appetite’ and make me want to find out more about this Polish noble family.
The Study Guide also includes discussion questions to help students think more deeply about what they’ve read. I found that the boys answered, “I don’t remember,” to most things, but the questions still helped us discuss the books and Chopin’s life. If nothing else, they helped me see what I needed to help them remember permanently!
A few recipes for foods and treats that Chopin enjoyed are printed in the Study Guide as well. The boys really want to try Polish Poppy Seed Cakes, but I keep forgetting to buy poppy seeds.
All in all, I have been very happy with the Chopin set and plan to buy other sets from Zeezok’s Great Musicians Series. We mostly follow a Charlotte Mason style of education, and Chopin was the first Composer Study we attempted. The Great Musicians Series places all the tools for a successful Composer Study at your fingertips – living books and the composer’s music. The Study Guide is icing on the cake to help spur discussion and bring to memory what has been read.
As I said, we read Mrs. Wheeler’s books on Chopin aloud as a family. I think they could be read to and enjoyed by children and teens of any age. For independent reading, I think they might be considered 4th grade level and up – but I’m not an expert on reading levels.
The complete Frederic Chopin Early and Later Years Special Offer, containing the two books, Study Guide, and Companion CD, is available from Zeezok Publishing for $30.90. Each item may be purchased separately, if desired. Zeezok’s Great Musicians Series includes five other Special Offer sets. Except for the Chopin set, each covers two composers with one book about each.
- George Handel & Robert Schumann
- Ludwig Beethoven & Joseph Haydn
- Sebastian Bach & Wolfgang Mozart
- Stephen Foster & Edward MacDowell
- Johannes Brahms & Franz Schubert
Thank you to Zeezok Publishing and The Old Schoolhouse Crew for sponsoring this review.
© 2010, Cindy. All rights reserved.