This review has been edited and updated since it was first posted.
Are you looking for last-minute Christmas presents for your kids? Or somebody's kids? Especially homeschooled kids who like music and stories?
Well, maybe it's a bit too late for Christmas...but maybe for Epiphany?
I have a solution for you.
Go on over to the Maestro Classics website.
Watch the little bald guy at waving the baton at the top of the screen. Make sure the sound's on, because he's telling you the story of Swan Lake...or something else, it's different each time. Except that you only get to hear the first few lines...
So click on the Listen to Samples page. Hey, it's Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel! And the Tortoise and the Hare! Casey at the Bat! And Juanita the Spanish Lobster!
OK, I'd never heard of Juanita the Spanish Lobster either, but you can see all the tracks listed and listen to short samples here, including "O Juanita a la Elvis."
If your kids like the kind of combined classical-music-and-storytelling you get with Peter and the Wolf (and guess what, Maestro Classics does sell that too), they'll probably really like these recordings.
The cost? Seems like a deal: US$16.98. But there's more: there are music-class lesson plans to go along with several of the stories, free for downloading and labelled for appropriate grade levels. There are free articles on the website about the importance of music in childrens' lives. And each CD has more than just one story-plus-music--you can see the contents for each one on the website. The Tortoise and the Hare, for example, has a fun song about The Pretzel Vendor of Paris.
You can also see the numerous awards and good reviews that these products have gotten. Unfortunately my own review can't go any further than this, because my review-copy CD got sidetracked in the mail and we're waiting for a replacement copy. (Maybe it will come today after all.) But based on the website information and the samples, I think it's safe to say that, even if the recordings are a bit on the young side for my kids, they're still a quality product and worth passing on the information about.
UPDATE (December 28th): we received the CD just before Christmas and it was just as good as I expected it to be--even the little booklet that comes with the disc is fun and helpful (there are puzzles, pictures of musical instruments, etc.). According to the flyer we received, there are two CDs "coming soon" that sound even more interesting to Mama Squirrel than the current line of children's books, nice as they are: "The Soldier's Tale" with music by Stravinsky, and "My Name is Handel." I don't have any more information than that about them.
You can see more reviews of Maestro Classics on the Review Crew website.
Dewey's Disclaimer: We received this CD for free, for purposes of review. No other payment was made. The opinions expressed in this review are our own.
P.S. Public libraries will likely have at least one or two titles from this publisher. I had a little trouble at first finding them in our local library's online catalogue; but when I tried "Stephen Simon" (the conductor) under "author," I came up with several of them. You might also try "London Philharmonic Orchestra"; but in our library system that orchestra has over sixty entries, so the author search was quicker.