Small Fry Saturday: Scarlatti’s Cat

Small Fry Saturday is a meme inspired by The Well-Read Redhead, showcasing books our children enjoy.

This week’s pick is:

   Title: Scarlatti’s Cat
Author: Nathaniel Lachenmeyer
Illustrator: Carlyn Beccia
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Expected Release:
March 1, 2014

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Find it on:

Scarlatti’s Cat grabbed my attention both as a musician and music teacher, and as a parent who appreciates a quality picture book. The book is based on the legendary story behind Domenico Scarlatti’s Fugue in G minor and how it became known as the “cat fugue.” This fugue is built upon a somewhat unusual set of six notes, which inspired a tale in which Scarlatti composed the piece during an improvisation session after hearing his pet cat, Pulcinella, walk across the harpsichord keys.

The illustrations are beautiful. The colors are vivid, the pictures grab the reader’s attention, yet there’s an ever-so-slight “old world” look, as if looking at paintings created during Scarlatti’s time. During a recent informal meeting with my fellow music teachers, Scarlatti happened to come up in conversation. I let them flip through the galley of this book on my Nook and they all gushed over it. One teacher commented, “I’m sold by the illustrations alone.”

The story is imaginative and cute, and even mentions a couple of Scarlatti’s contemporaries (Bach and Handel). The only thing I wasn’t thrilled about is that Scarlatti’s pride causes him to give away Pulcinella at the end. It was handled a little nonchalantly, and I wasn’t comfortable with the disposable animal attitude this implied (unintentionally, I’m sure). However, C seemed satiated by the story’s suggestion that Pulcinella was adopted into another home and continued to express herself creatively… and she asked me to read it again, which is always a thumbs up vote!

Want to hear the piece? Enjoy this performance by American harpsichordist Elaine Comparone:

About the author

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