As a child, I loved the picture books of Dr. Seuss, with their zany creatures and silly poetry. With Wild Symphony, I wanted to create a similar magical world of pictures and poetry aimed at a new generation of young people, and I also hoped to take it one step further. Wild Symphony is very much a read-aloud picture book, but it also contains a surprising musical twist. For each of the animals in the story, I composed a unique piece of modern classical music—a short, fun composition that reflects that animal’s special personality—and through an exciting new technology, each animal’s music accompanies the illustrations and poems to create a fully immersive storytelling experience.
I grew up with classical music. My parents were trained musicians who chose not to have a TV, so instead I played piano, sang in choirs, and went to lots of concerts. Music was a secret sanctuary for me as a child. It calmed me when I felt frustrated, was a trusted friend when I felt lonely, helped me express my joy when I was happy, and, best of all, sparked my creativity and imagination. Even now, I play piano every day—usually after I finish a long day of writing.
I wanted to create a book that encourages young people to experience the power (and fun!) of listening to classical music. Using image recognition, the Wild Symphony book is able to “magically” perform the specific piece associated with each animal—whether that piece is upbeat and fun like “Bouncing Kangaroo,” reflective and calm like “Wondrous Whale,” or zany and silly like “Dancing Boars” or “Busy Beetles.” The music is also easily accessible through various streaming services so young people can listen anywhere and anytime. Ideally, the book will help spawn a new generation of people who appreciate classical music.
I love layered storytelling, and my novels always attempt to weave together varied themes. With Wild Symphony, I was excited to create a truly layered experience by using three different languages simultaneously—art, music, and poetry. In the same way that an opera captivates its audience by presenting beautiful sets, dramatic music, and lyrical drama, Wild Symphony strives to be an immersive feast for eyes, ears, and mind, all at the same time. And, of course, a HUGE part of that feast is the magical artwork of Susan Batori, whose illustrations seem to leap off the page with an irresistible sense of humor. I’m an enormous fan of Susan’s work, and I imagine a lot of young people will feel the same way very soon.
I have always enjoyed playing and composing music. Some years ago, I was out walking near a marsh and heard many different kinds of frogs all singing together—croakers, peepers, bullfrogs—and it sounded like a classical fugue to me. When I got home, I composed a little piece called “Happy Frogs,” and wrote a poem to go with it. I loved that creative process so much that I just kept going. Twenty animals later, Wild Symphony was born!